Letters to Mother Burg 2002

From: Judith (Ring) Squires
Email: jsquires@oxy.edu
Date: Wed, 02 Jan 2002
Subject: OT's

Hello Mother Burg Correspondents,

I've been wondering for quite awhile if someone might have written a history of O.T. Johnson's Department Store. This was our family's favorite place in Galesburg. My mom, sister and I would have lunch at O.T.'s just about every Saturday. Just the memories of the restaurant alone makes my mouth water. I assume the building is still in use as an antiques store, at least it was the last time we were in the Burg. I especially loved the book store on the mezzanine. I think I was a teenager working nights at the Grandview Drive-In before I could actually afford to buy a book there, but at the time I felt truly sophisticated in purchasing a hardback book at O.T.'s. I would love to hear other's memories of that wonderful emporium.

Judith (Ring) Squires
Burbank, CA

From: Tim May
Email: tmay@webworkz.com
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2002
Subject: The American Beauty Restaurant

As we grow older and remember little things in our youth. One of these for me is the American Beauty Restaurant where I worked while going to school for fifty cents an hour. This restaurant also made some of the best candy I have ever eaten. They had an old candy maker named Jimmy Anas and his wife Christine. The last name is a little strange but it is Greek as were the owners of the restaurant; that was George Poulos and his wife.

The main candy they made was called Heavenly Hash and it was very good and very rich. This candy was only made in the winter months as the pure chocolate would melt before you could get it home in the summer. A couple of months before Christmas they would have these people come in and hand dip the candies in chocolate. This was done on a marble slab , they rolled the candy fillings around in the chocolate and ended up with the design on top that designated what kind of filling each piece of chocolate held.

This place had a very tight knit group of employees that had been with the Poulos's for many years. I can remember Ann Hall that ran the salad bar with an iron fist. She also made all of the Thousand Island dressing that they sold. The recipe was a very big secret and no one was allowed in the basement while she put it all together. This was the only restaurant I ever worked in but I was struck by the care Mr. Poulos always took to make sure all the food and preparation tables were kept very clean. Even though Mr. Poulos was a heartless taskmaster , I had the greatest respect for him and his food serving ethics. There was a very colorful character in the kitchen named Leroy Gillette , this guy had a memory like a tape recorder. When ever there was a mistake on an order he would recite exactly what the waitress had said when she walked through the kitchen. This was with six waitresses filing through almost endlessly on a Sunday afternoon.

Every Sunday they had baked Virginia ham with fruit cocktail sauce. I have never seen another restaurant make ham like that. Every Sunday at 3:00 pm I would have that ham and I never did get tired of it. They had many good items on the menu but the help was not allowed the more expensive items. While working there and going to school I learned a lot of things, mostly about human nature. The main staff that worked there were very helpful and supported me in many ways. I still have the card signed by all the employees when I graduated from Galesburg High School. I would imagine most of the people that worked there have passed away long ago but they live on in my mind.

I eat in a lot of different restaurants these days and once in a while I will sit in one that triggers memories of the American Beauty. I used to joke that I was the American Beauty , of course that was just a silly joke as there is not a lot pretty about me. When this restaurant closed Galesburg lost something that it has never gotten back. I often wonder what ever happened to Mr. Poulos and his lovely wife, if anyone knows I would appreciate hearing about them. Just reflecting.

Tim May
Murphy, N.C.

From: Lawreence Martin
Email: martinminn@mediaone.net
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2002
Subject: O.T. Johnson's Department Store

Judith Squires asked for memories of O.T. Johnson's Department Store. As a child in the late 1940s through mid fifties I thought it was quite a place. I remember especially its book store on the balcony, the animated circuses and perhaps "Christmas village" displays, and the pneumatic tube system which carried money and sales slips from salespeople to the main office. I believe some of the stores (Continental? Kelloggs?) had baskets on trolleys which would scoot to the balcony for the same purpose. From time to time a disabled man would play his accordion in front of OT’s, selling pencils in return for donations.

Larry Martin
8882 Compton Lane
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076
(651) 457-2798

From: John Cooke
Email: JohnCooke86@aol.com
Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2002
Subject: Cheesie's

Growing up in Galesburg in the 50s and 60s was quite a trip. I lived in an area affectionately named "Monkey Town." It was named that because of the Swedish concentration in the area and the pancakes they made called Monk Pies. The local hangout for our "gang" was Levinson's Grocery on Losey Street and I believe Arnold Street.

One of the son's of the owner was nicknamed "Cheesie." I don't know why but he was a great guy. We spent hour upon hour on the bench out front drinking double cola with peanuts dumped right in with it and just about every type of junk food available at the time.

When we weren't at Cheesie's, we could probably be found at the Park Drive Dairy, O.N. Custer Little League Park or participating in some kind of mischief that would not be [;n my best interest to describe at this point in my life.What a great childhood!

Those living in Monkey Town during those years included Dick Stellar, Dave and Doug Traff, Tom Olson, Ralph Miller, Larry Murreen, Greg Huss, Frank Pesci , Paula Pico, Jeff White, Tom Stewart, Mike Johnson, Punky Layton, Dave Hoebing, Mike Hogan, Angie Humphrey, David Kuhn, Bill Stevens, Susan McGlothlin (sp), Patti Pesci, my sisters Diana and Carol Cooke, Susan Flickinger, Dick Wickman and many others.

Monkey Town was bordered by Lincoln Street, Farnham Street and the Santa Fe tracks. Did you live there too? Let us know.

Galesburg was a good place in which to grow up and those of us in Monkey Town had it better than most.

John Cooke: aka Big John, Little John, Cookie, Raw Hoss, Cookiejar, and just plain Cooke (we never used first names).

From: Eleanor (Ellie) Albert Simon
Email: ellie1210@msn.com
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002
Subject: Remembering Galesburg

How I loved Galesburg! Memories prompted me to find Galesburg on Google. What a great web site. I loved those thick rich malts at the Steak 'n' Shake, A & W root beer, great cheerleaders at the basketball games -- so much more. I read a letter from Kenndra Marshall who recalled that wonderful smell from the soybean plant. My father was the original builder and owner of that plant from the late 30s till mid 60s. He was a pioneer in that business.

The early homes in Galesburg were so interesting to see with great history. I hope they add more. I went to Silas Willard, Churchill and GHS -- class of 1945.

I would love to know what has happened to my classmates. As for me, I live in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Golf, family, and friends are my activities here and it's SUPER! The only thing missing is the corner grocer at N. Seminary and Fremont, leaving doors and windows unlocked and knowing everybody in town. With best regards, Eleanor (Ellie) Albert Simon

From: Marsha Carlton
Email: mlcarlton@msn.com
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002
Subject: Universalism


I read with interest your article in the archives about Universalism. My great-grandfather, George G. Davis,4;from Boston, Harvard '03, Harvard Law '05) 9;as the last president of Lombard College. He was a national officer of the Unitarian church and was sent from Boston to Galesburg in 1929. I am not sure of the exact nature of the financial problems that caused Lombard to close, but assume that the crash of '29 was a determining factor. When he came to Galesburg he brought his daughter, Helen who enrolled as a freshman. Helen Davis was at Lombard long enough to fall in love with an Iowa farmboy, Kenneth Grant,h;ho was at Lombard on a basketball and track scholarship. After Lombard closed she went to Beloit College and he went to Bradley, but they married in 1933. And that is why Boston-bred Helen Davis never went home to Boston. One of those stories that make history alive.

Marsha Carlton

From: Larry Mureen
Email: larryhm@juno.com
Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2002
Subject: Life in Galesburg

Hello Galesburg,

The first nine years of my life were in Galesburg and I'll never forget them. I was born in 1950 at Cottage Hospital. Our family has added a little history to Galesburg and the State of Ill. My Grandfather was E. W. Mureen. He served as Mayor from 1923 to 1927 followed by two terms in the Illinois General Assembly. He also served on the Galesburg School Board for 20 years. He authored a book called "History of the Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway-- Spoon River "Peavine". He died in 1952 when I was 2 years old. I only have vague remembrances of him.

My father, Howard F. Mureen, owned "Mureen Hardware" in Galesburg.

In 1959 we moved to Dallas, Texas. About two years after we moved to Texas we heard that the old Mureen Hardware building had burned down and had been turned into a parking lot. I don't know what it is now.

I grew up on Phillips St. just a few houses from the railroad tracks. I can remember the old steam locomotives going by belching out tons of black smoke. I loved trains.

My best friend, John Cooke and his family, lived on Burgland Ave. just behind us. We were always playing together. I can remember walking to Farmham School. Some time we would walk over the Farnham Street bridge and watch for trains. It was an exciting experience watching a big train coming toward you. We could feel the exhaust from the engine as it went beneath the bridge and the bridge was shaking. Then we lean over the rail and start spitting on the cars as they went by. Just the kind of things little boys do. If we were lucky there would be a passenger car with a viewing dome in the train and we could try to spit on the windows. There were probably many train passengers who disliked those two little boys on the bridge.

Most of the time we'd walk across the tracks on our way to school. We love to see those trains coming. We would stand a few feet form the tracks and the engineer would start blowing his horn. We had to cover our ears and could feel the wind as the train went by. Sometimes we would place a penny on the track and watch it get flattened.

The first girl I like as a child was Connie Duval. She had an older sister, but I can't remember her name. You always remember your first crush, however. I got a bicycle for Christmas one year and would ride it to school. I thought it would be fun to scare a girl by riding my bike toward them. It turned out to be Connie Duval's sister. She started running down the sidewalk and I was peddling my bike right behind her. She tripped and fell down and I ran over her. She didn't get hurt, but I got her dress dirty. I felt terrible and went over to her house to apologize later. I still feel badly thinking about it today. Needless to say, Peggy never became my girlfriend. Moral to that story, don't chase girls with your bike.

I can remember summers in Galesburg the best. Getting up in the morning and running over to John's house. Then it was Cowboys and Indians with the Fanner Fifties cap guns. On Saturdays we would watch Roy Rogers, Cartoons, and then Gene Autrey. Summers were the best. I can remember walking to and Ice Cream Parlor a couple blocks away with 25 cents. We would get those big 5 scoop ice cream cones. Today it probably costs $1.25 per scoop. We'd sit there in the parlor licking ice cream trying to keep it from dripping all over. That was the best ice cream. I understand that company is still there and having ice cream socials on weekends.

Couple of the things I've missed the most is the corn and tomatoes in Galesburg. It has to be the best tasting corn and tomatoes in the world. Those farmers really know what they're doing in that area.

My grandfather on my mothers side, Bruce Kelly, would take us to Kiddy Land once in a while. It was a very exciting place for a 6 year old. There were all kinds of rides.

I remember the garbage man who used to drive the big garbage truck down our alley. His name was Mike Ruggles. He was a nice guy. Once in a while he would let me ride on the back of the truck and drive real slow down the alley.

I still have relatives and friends living in Galesburg. The last time I was in Galesburg was in 1969.

My dad, Howard, is still alive here in Texas. He is 78 years old and in fairly good health. I live two blocks from my parents now, but maybe someday I'll come back to Galesburg. I may just walk over that bridge on Farmham Street and wait for another train.

Thanks Galesburg, you are the best.

Larry Mureen

From: ????
Email: RBrad15424@aol.com
Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2002
Subject: Galesburg

Hello fellow hometown folk

I was so excited when I found this site. Š4;really enjoyed reading the letters and all the memories. ã9;was born in Galesburg at St. Marys Hospital in 1956. ã0;ew up on Chestnut Street. Œ4; fondest memories are of Virginia's Ice Cream Store, Booker's Grocery Store, Kiddyland, The Orpheum Theatre, Lake Storey, Lincoln Park. The best catfish dinner ever was at Bud and Hank's. The schools I attended where Allen Park, Lombard Jr. High, and Galesburg Sr. High. We moved to Arizona and that is where I graduated. I still have family in Galesburg and love to come back and visit. Oh yea, I remember the square before it was round! My last trip back I was sad to see that the old train station was gone. My grandpa was an engineer and I have memories of that as well. Well, Zephyr, thanks for the walk down memory lane!’

From: Janet Durst
Email: J51432@aol.com
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002
Subject: I have Galesburg memories, too


I read with great interest the recent letters about great memories of Galesburg. Especially about O.T. Johnson's department store and particularly the American Beauty Restaurant. Yes, I am glad that I grew up in Galesburg in some ways (mostly because if was/is a small town and our particular community was close) but my memories are not so wonderful about O.T. Johnson's and American Beauty restaurant. As a person of color, I was not allowed to eat in the American Beauty restaurant and I was not so welcomed in O. T. Johnson's to work or to purchase, and I had to sit in the balcony at the Orpheum Theater and on certain side of the theater at the Colonial and the West. All I can say is that I am in some ways a "better" and more aware and discerning person for having endured those unpleasant humilities but not so strong that I felt I could remain in that town after completing my education because there was no job of any substance for me despite my college degree.

What a pity! There were a number of us who took our degrees elsewhere and were successful educators, social service workers, medical people, executives, etc. This is written only to let others know that there was also another side to the story of Galesburg for some of us. My family history in Galesburg, and that of several others, dates back as far as 1847, but it is the history of people of color and very rarely documented in any of the chronicles of Galesburg with any importance -- as if we were not even there. A person's background history does lot to buoy them up and especially in the eyesight of others. It has only been recently that I have noted that people of color are considered to have any positive importance in the makeup of Galesburg.

Janet Durst
Denver, CO

From: Robin Bradshaw
Email: RBrad15424@aol.com
Date: Sat, 6 Apr 2002
Subject: The Pizza House

Does anyone remember the Pizza House? I don't remember what street it was on but it was right next to the fire station and by the college. My aunt Minnie worked there for years. My first unofficial job was running the cash register there. ©7;wasn't old enough to be on the payroll so they paid me in cash. I have many other fond memories but that is the one that sticks out in my mind right now. I now live in Florida and just love it here.

Robin Bradshaw

From: Marcia Gaskill
Email: mgaskill@maplecity.com
Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002
Subject: Class of 1955

Is anybody out there that graduated in 1955 from GHS? I am on the CLASSMATES roll,if anybody wants to talk. Or anybody that lived in Knoxville, Ill. in the late 40s or early 50s. my new email address is mgaskill@maplecity.com


Marcia Gaskill

From: Jack Johnson
Email: bluecrane@excite.com, worldtool@ameritech.net
Date: Wed, 10 Apr 2002
Subject: Bradshaw's and Hotel Custer

The Pizza House was on Simmons and as I remember it served pretty decent pizza. Just diagonally from it on Cherry St a couple years earlier was another pizza place that was THE place to go on Friday or Saturday nights for everyone that was anyone between the ages of 16 and about 20. I remember it was owned by a family named Fiacco and was called Marties.

Have not been to Galesburg for about 5 or 6 years or even longer. Is the Hotel Custer still there? What is in the building if it is not a hotel? Anyone remember Bradshaw's Pool Hall on Cherry St. We used to call it Bradshaw's College of Knowledge because we would often skip school and pursue our educational goals there.

Jack Johnson

From: Clay Britton
Email: Cmcabritt@aol.com
Date: Sun, 19 May 2002
Subject: The Burg

Just ran across this Web Site I'm SFC Clay Britton of the United States Army. I lived in the BURG during my school age years from 1962 to 1980. If anyone would like to get in touch with me i can be reached @ (912)-856-5640.

Clay Britton

From: Donald Stoffel
Email: janedon@cheqnet.net
Date: Thu, 23 May 2002
Subject: Hi, Mother Burg

Hi, Mother Burg: Incidentally, Mother Burg Salve is (was) the best remedy for abrasions, festering sores, etc., that I have ever en countered. I'm sure it is now unavailable, but if it can be had, please let me know and I shall buy a case pronto!

I was born at Cottage Hospital in 1932. I was raised on E. Brooks St, between Pine and Day, until I moved in 1950 to Lake Bracken, thence to N. Kellogg St., then again to Lake Bracken (we were building a home there). I graduated in the GHS Class of 1950. To my way of thinking, I had an idyllic childhood, even though much of it encompassed the traumatic years of WWII. I attended Weston Elementary School, where my instructors included Mickey Henderson, Gladys Davies and Mary Purdy. They brooked no nonsense, and instilled a disciplinary streak that kept with most of us. My schoolmates included Betty Darnell (Nelson), Barbara Strader (Wise), Darlene Huffaker (?), Ernest Scott, Fred Rippel, Gifford Stoke, Irving Riggs, Ronald Berge, etc. We would walk home for lunch, then come back early to play football on the playground (softball, if during the spring).

When fall came, we went to Lombard Field to watch the Silver Streaks play football under the then-new coach, Cliff VanDyke. Our heroes were Clark Highlander, Jimmy Evans the best and most versatile high school athlete I ever saw in person), Lloyd Hawkinson, Harlow Swartout and Bob "Egghead" Williams. Our autumn after-school afternoons were spent under the tunnelling elm trees playing our preliminary version of " Punt, Pass and Kick". During the winter, we stood in line on the steps of Steele Gym to see Evans, Rabbit McClure, Del "BoBo" Graham and "Muzz" Barstow do their thing (and a wonderful thing they did !).

I was privileged to be in attendance at George Huff Gym when the Streaks lost a 73-72 overtime heartbreaker to Decatur in one of the all-time great IHSA tournament games Saturdays then included the habitual trip to the Colonial Theatre to see Johnny Mack Brown, Wild Bill Elliott (my fave), Charles Starrett or Bob Steele, along with Curly, Larry and Moe, plus Movietone News (with Ed Thorgerson) and this week's chapter of (King of the Royal Mounted, Perils of Nyoka, Dick Tracy, Spy Smasher, Winners of the West, etc.). This had been preceeded by a burger and cream soda at Irv's Lunch, plus a cherry malt at Red:Cross Drug Store (urp !). A half-dollar given by your Mom (glad to get you out of the house for a while) could buy you bus fare up town, lunch, a candy bar (or a bottle of Horlick's Malted Milk Tablets), movie admission and bus fare home. What a bargain!

All of this was shared with my best friend and next-door neighbor, Russell Bridgewater, who was a year older than me. When he went to GHS, and I still lingered at Lombard, our paths began to diverge. Years at GHS have been previously chronicalled. Brad's Finishing School for Boys, the Youth Center, Coney Island, Snappy Service (on Seminary St., the best loins in town), the venerable Steak 'N Shake, American Beauty, Tasty Grill, Harbor Lights, Highlander's, The Huddle - - - on and on it goes. The coal strike, regional basketball at the Armory, Howard Keene and Fred Rippel almost doing in the state champion Rock Island team - - -. Ron Pearson, D.D. Cox, Bill Nelson ----- all images of times past, but treasured. Time is short, but memories are precious and not to be surrendered lightly.

Don Stoffel

From: Joe Forgue
Email: jnjforgue@sprynet.com
Date: Wed, 29 May 2002
Subject: Old Costa Teacher

I taught at Costa HS the first four years it was open, '64-''68; then I was Brother Theodore. As I approach my 61st birthday, I wonder about all the students I have had the joy to teach. Presently I am a chaplain (been a Catholic deacon since 1986) at the Federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma. I am married, have two grown and married sons. Would like to hear from any former students.

Joe Forgue jnjforgue@sprynet.com

From: John Liska
Email: jliska.tx@netzero.net
Date: Sat, 27 Jul 2002
Subject: Hi

Hello, i had written in 2001 asking if anyone remember's me i had a couple of response's thanks for writting to me..But in the mean time i have chg my email address it is jliska.tx@netzero.net. I hope this helps and my old classmates and friends write to me again...i just lov this sight..i miss the burg especially now with the hot dry temps here in Dallas...take care. John

From: John Liska
Email: jliska.tx@netzero.net
Date: Sun, 25 Aug 2002
Subject: I can't believe

I can't believe no one from my gen...hasn't written to this paper. I lived from 1960-1978. I lov growing up in galesburg I have even purchase from ebay about galesburg history. I have notice no one from my yrs here on this wonderful web sight pls let me know i am mistaken let me hear or pls write to this web sight. i know of over 100 person's that could write here,that came on my generation..lov the burgï7;. John

From: Michael Dysert
Email: mdysert@winco.net
Date: Sun, 25 Aug 2002
Subject: O. T. Johnson's Department Store

Hi all,

The thing I remember most is my grandmother running the postal sub station at OT'S. She was there from the fifties till her death in 1976. I wasn't really supposed to, but every Christmas I helped with the heavy mail that came at that time of year. My wife, and I often ate at OT's. The meal I most remember was something called an OT's rite. Does anyone still around have the recipe for those great tasting loose hamburgers? I would dearly love to get it. We still live close to Galesburg, Woodhull to be exact, and are in town often.

In a way it has been painful to watch the huge changes that have taken place in the old town. Even if change was beyond anyone's control, things are not for the better. At least not compared to the memories that I still hold so close to my heart. However that maybe, Galesburg, was and, still is home to me even after not living there in nearly forty years. My complements to the Zephyr for this great way to keep in a little touch with home.

If anyone has that recipe, or knows who does let me know. Oh, and if you can still hear the Q's trains working up steam to get out of the yards, and across Main Street, Or the first reenactment ot the Lincoln Douglas debates in the 1958, I bet I know you.

Thanks! Mike Dysert
or POB 505
Woodhull, IL 61490

From: Allison Tracy
Email: alndaniel@yahoo.com
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002
Subject: Dear Ma Burg

Hi. I was born in Cottage Hospital and lived in the burg the first 16 1/2 years of my life. I truly miss many things about the historic town. Most kids want to get as far from Galesburg as possible after they graduate, but once you have lived there it is always part of you. I had to move because of my mother's job transfer, which made me move in the middle of my junior year at GHS. I moved to KY which is a very different environment.

As the seasons pass, I can close my eyes and picture what I would be doing if I were still in Galesburg. In the fall I picture the beautiful trees and the houses dressed up for Halloween. I picture going to the scenic drive and walking through the old jail-house for the millionth time. Or going to Carl Sandburg's birthplace, which we went to for a field trip every year in elementary school. If you can believe it,6;ny people who live here in KY find that quite interesting! At Christmas I miss the snow and the lights around town. Especially Seminary Street, it has wonderful smells from the Landmark! I miss the bike rides in the summer and the long hot nights sitting on the front porch. I even miss the trains blowing at night!

One of my best memories is living right between Swedoughs and Danner's! I used to wake to the smells of the two bakeries! YUM I can almost taste them. Believe me there is no other place in this world that makes doughnuts like Swedoughs. I always take a box home when I come to visit, which is still frequent since most of the people I love still live there. They are0;at0;miss the most about good old Galesburg!

From: Joyce Price
Email: JPrice@Judson-il.edu
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2002
Subject: Remembering Galesburg

I was born and raised in Monmouth, but Galesburg and relatives living there impacted my life greatly. A very early memory of Galesburg is the horse drawn milk delivery carts. 7;e of my earliest memories also is the wonderful doughnuts made in one of the dimestores on Main Street ( I think it was Grants). Our shopping trips to Galesburg left me with the same thrill I get from shopping Michigan Avenue today. 0;ll never forget the special treat of lunch at the American BeautyŠor at the Homestead Room in the Hotel CusterŠ.buying my high school wardrobe at Maurita Dale or the special occasion outfit from Ida Anne Shoppe. Those were wonderful times. I remember visiting relatives and stopping at Swedough’s for their delicious doughnuts.2;P>One especially memorable day was my sophomore year of high school when our parents brought us to the Galesburg train station to see President Harry Truman as he traveled through Galesburg. If I remember correctly, it was his birthday and a very large decorated cake was carried through the audience and presented to Mr. Truman. I reachedŠ.as far as I couldŠ.and swiped a tiny bit of frosting from that cake. I also remember someone saying that the Galesburg bakery owner providing the cake was a distant cousin of Mr. TrumanŠŠas I’m musing awayŠ.does anyone else remember this particular eraŠ.late 40s and early 50s?? Remember the record shops where you could actually go into a little cubicle and play the record through before making the purchase? And how well I remember the Denver Zephyr. We would get dressed ³to the nines² to get on it and go to Chicago to visit our aunt.!1;P>I still have the opportunity to visit Galesburg, but the changes that have taken place through the years are sad to behold. I hope the city’s economic development improves. Thank you for providing this column. I really look forward to reading the memories of others.

Joyce Price

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