Summer Fun: Miss Pikes Progressive Camp

With the summer season here, many parents have had to make the decision of what to do with their children. In the past, many parents looked to Miss Pike’s Progressive Camp in the Fox River Valley to keep their children active and entertained during the summer months.

Miss Pike’s Progressive Camp began in the 1930s and was located at Pinelands on Route 25, north of where Little Woods School is today. The camp was directed by Dorcas and Stella Marie Pike, both graduates of the Pestalozzi-Froebel Teachers College on Chicago. Charles Pike, the brother of Docas and Stella also worked at the camp, serving as athletic supervisor for the boys’ sports and golf lessons. In addition, the camp had many counselors to offer guidance and give special attention to the needs of the campers.

Enrollment in Miss Pike’s Progressive Summer Camp typically lasted eight weeks and was available to boys and girls ages three to fifteen. The camp focused on developing the physical and social health of each individual child with activities such as horseback riding, tennis, golf, twice daily swimming lessons, hayrack parties, picnics, nature excursions, and after dinner movies. Private tutoring was also available to students for an additional charge. To ensure the healthy development of campers, the Pikes kept daily records of camper’s weight and hired a University of Chicago clinic specialist to supervise their diets.

The Pikes also worked to strike a balance between relaxation and outdoor actives within their camp. They placed all the campers on a regular sleeping schedule which included naps for the younger campers. Finally, the Pikes ensured that the children were surrounded with experienced councilors who provided supervision and friendship for the campers.

The regular summer season for Miss Pike’s Progressive Camp ran from June 20 to August 16 and cost $240 per camper, but a $40 discount was offered if a camper was registered by the first of May. However, when the summer camp ended in may many parents wished that their children could remain at Pinelands and continue their educations.

In 1932, aware of the demand Stella Pike and her husband bought a large house at the southeast corner of Main and Seventh Streets in St. Charles and opened the Miss Pikes’ Progressive School. The combined boarding and day school offered instruction for boys and girls in the elementary grades but soon began to offer high school level courses. Overall, the Pike’s strove to incorporate an academic curriculum with a hoke-like familiar atmosphere so children would become polite, well-rounded individuals.

Each year the school would open the second week of September and closed around the first of June. Tuition was approximately $950 and included everything but piano and voice lessons. As more students entered the school, the Pikes felt the need for more space and decide to build an addition to their house in the late 1940s. The school continued at this location up until the late 1960s when Stella and her husband retired. At the time of the closure, the school was nationally renowned and had housed children from across the country.

 

St. Charles Scoop: The Great Spider-Snake Fight

The Great Spider story began Aug. 21, 1932 when a St. Charles city employee was checking the pumphouse of Fourth Street and walked into a fascinating and awesome sight. A spider holding a snake captive in its web. For the next three weeks no legendary spider of snake ever enjoyed such a burst of notoriety as these two creatures in the St. Charles pumphouse.

Snake and Spider War, Photograph contributed by Mayor Langum. Sept. 1932

It was surmised that the snake, a seven inch garter, had made a pass at the spider and missed. The snake's had was annoyingly tangled in the web. When the snake tired, the spider, sensing weakness, began to relentlessly spin more web. 

Besides being a closeup of a natural struggle for survival, which attracts human attention, this situation presented elements that aroused human emotions. Some people were shocked. Some felt the pity for the snake which was clearly losing the fight. Gambling instincts were provoked. The wire service spread the story and pictures of the epic battle throughout the nation.

Adding to the interest was the fact that the two creatures who normally are among the most repulsive to man, were not able to capture human interest and sympathy for their respective positions. People all over the country took sides. Some wanted the snake to win. Many thought the clever little spider deserved the victory. Phone calls and letters came to city hall from all of the U.S. and Mayor Langum found himself in the middle of a great controversy and refused to take sides.

Days passed into weeks and still, the struggle between the spider and the snake made the news. The spider by now had cunningly spun reinforcing threads in several directions and the snake couldn't battle to free itself. On September 14, about three weeks of international commotion, Mayor Langum decided he'd had enough.

He entered the pump house alone and cut down the snake. It was exhibited for a few days in a store window to prove that it was alive. A number of days later the same was released in an area of Pottawatomie Park where it was occasionally seen running away from ground spiders.

Click to read the full article, St. Charles Chronicle, September 11, 1932.

St. Charles Scoop: Camp Kane

Today's St. Charles Scoop goes back in time today to talk about Camp Kane and the Illinois 8th Cavalry. Camp Kane was a training ground for the Eighth and Seventeenth Illinois Calvary, the Calvary was lead by General John Farnsworth. Camp Kane was home to training grounds for more than a thousand Union soldiers and along Farnsworth was the famous Marcellus Jones, the man who fired the first shot at Gettysburg. Born in Canada, Farnsworth was a surveyor and studied law in Michigan before moving to St. Charles to establish a law office in the 1840s. He served in the United States Congress from 1857-1860, and from 1863-1872. Farnsworth was an abolitionist and a friend of Abraham Lincoln and nominated Lincoln for the office of U.S. President at the Republican Party Convention in 1860. The 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment saw action in many Civil War battles, most notably the Battles of Manassas, Williamsburg, Mechanicsville, Alexandria, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. The 8th Calvary was also tasked with searching for John Wilks Booth who shot and killed Lincoln, they also guarded Lincolns tomb while it was in Springfield Illinois. In August 2014, the Jones Law Office was moved from Cedar Ave. to its current location in Langum Park.  During the Civil War, the law office served as a military recruiting headquarters.  At one time, the small building was used as a holding cell for deserting soldiers.

Camp Kane is one of the last four surviving Civil War training ground sites in Illinois. The Camp Kane Heritage Foundation, which came together in 2014, put together an ambitious plan to raise about $10 million to construct a Civil War Underground Railroad and Discovery Center at Camp Kane in St. Charles. Even to this day some St. Charles residents are unaware of Camp Kane and its importance to our towns history. The museum boasts a display of the Camp Kane and Illinois Eight Calvary with its display in the museum with such items as a office Kepi, a backpack from the civil war, and Civil War Epaulets

St. Charles Scoop: Leroy Oaks

Leroy Oaks is a beautiful forest preserve that attracts a lot of visitors every year even during the winter time. Leroy Oaks doesn’t just play home to visitors it’s also the home of high school cross country races during the high school season and is a place many people flock to for wedding photos, prom photos, family photos, and simply to enjoy nature. The barn at Leroy Oaks is a landmark many people know of quite well, it’s the most popular spot for people to take photos of groups or individuals, the forest preserve also sees lots of runners, walkers, and bikers. Leroy Oaks is maintained by the forest preserve crew and they do controlled burns, clear out ruts of logs, and keep the forest preserve nice and clean for many to enjoy. Another big attraction in Leroy Oaks is the creek where many people like to visit in the summer whether it’s to play in the creek on sit on the bank of the creek and enjoy a book or enjoy some family time. Leroy Oaks is a great place to visit to get away from the day to day grind as a place to go to and unwind and enjoy all of it’s beauty. Leroy Oaks is also located near the great western trail which is a path that goes for miles and miles that starts near the parking lot and is a variation of crushed limestone and pavement that many people enjoy for walks, runs, bike rides, and even sees people practicing skiing during winter. As summer is in full swing there is nothing better than to go enjoy all  that Leroy Oaks has to offer whether you plan to go play in the creek or take a nice walk along the paths. Of course, on a day like today is a great day to play in the creek.

St. Charles Scoop: Colonial Cafe

Colonial Ice Cream has been around for over a hundred years and was founded in 1901. Colonial started out as a delivery service for milk and eventually ice cream, they used to pack the milk and ice cream with ice that was harvested by workers and packed. Colonial has transformed over the years from a dairy business to a restaurant and attract people for breakfast, lunch, and dinner offering a wide variety menu. Their still most famous for their ice cream and the famous kitchen sink, a concoction of different ice cream and topping placed in a kitchen sink and if you finish the kitchen sink you get a bumper sticker saying, “I finished a kitchen sink” Colonial Café. The Café has moved to a new location on Randall road near the circuit court. The menu offers people many beverages, and food options with so much diversity but most people have their favorite dishes they go to whenever they go there. The Colonial Café has been a benchmark of St. Charles being one of the oldest business to exist for over a hundred years and to this day is a local hot spot that many favor. For many people Colonial Café is just more than a restaurant and café to them, it’s their favorite place in St. Charles to get something good to eat or simply to enjoy their famous ice cream which lots of St. Charles residents have fond memories of.

St. Charles Scoop: Running Clubs

There are plenty of running events throughout St. Charles every day because, let’s face it, working out and running by yourself can get boring; having people to run with makes it more fun! Two of the most popular groups are great places to meet and run with people who like to exercise and socialize. The first is the Fox River Trail Runners, who run on the Great Western Trail every Wednesday night and host many other runs and races throughout the Kane County area. Another way to meet runners is through a visit to Dick Pond Athletics. Dick Pond has many programs for runners, and even if you aren’t quite a runner yet they have a run to walk program which prepares you for the transition from walking to running.

Dick Pond is also a shop full of great running gear for all levels of athlete. Glenn, the owner of Dick Pond, has done a lot for the local running community of St. Charles, and his staff is very knowledgeable and can help find the best shoe for you. The Fox River Trail Runners group as well as Dick Pond Athletics aren’t just great opportunities to enjoy runs with others: they are also perfect for you to meet new people, make friends, and socialize. No matter your skill level, both groups welcome all people who want to run. St. Charles has a vibrant running community, and both the Fox River Trail Runners and Dick Pond Athletics are great ways to become a part of this welcoming community. 

St. Charles Scoop

Pottawatomie Park has been around for a long time, and has something for just about everyone whether it’s mini golf, swimming, golfing, events at the community center, paddle boat tours, or just relaxing in the park. Especially now that summer is in full swing there is lots of fun to be had at the Park. Fancy a round of golf? The Pottawatomie golf course is for you. With a nine hole variety course, it is a great place to hit the greens. Maybe you’re looking to do something with friends:  perhaps a round of mini golf or a ride on the paddle boats that you can take out on the river. Summer heat got you beat? Consider a nice day at the swimming pool: take a dip, relax on a on a chair, and let the day pass by. No matter who you are there is something fun for you at Pottawatomie Park!

 

 

 Image courtesy of St. Charles Park District 

Image courtesy of St. Charles Park District 

How to Get North on the Westside?

Guest Blogger-Archie Bentz

Archie Bentz was the last owner of what is now the St. Charles History Museum and over the last few year's he has been compiling a list of the Tri-Cities service stations. When the Museum was creating its new exhibit Serving Gas to Preserving History, Archie was a wealth of information but it also sparked some new questions and we are looking to the community for help.

 This is a current Google Earth photo of  311-313 N 5th Street  in St Charles, the present home of Boyle Body Shop.  

This is a current Google Earth photo of 311-313 N 5th Street in St Charles, the present home of Boyle Body Shop.  

I am currently working on compiling a history of Tri-City service stations and automobile dealerships.  I have a limited history of this site going back to 1932 as shown below and would appreciate any information to fill in the gaps in dates and names of those in operation. 

My Remembrances...

Here is what I remember of this area in St. Charles as a kid; The main north-south highway that we know of today as Route 31 or Second Street in St Charles did not pass under the railroad tracks about 3 blocks north of Rt 64.  There had been no provision for a tunnel or underpass of the railroad right-of-way.  I believe there only two ways to go north of St Charles on the west side; 1) travel west on Dean Street and drive over the tracks, 2) there was a tunnel under the tracks either on north 5th or north 6th.  I believe that since there was this early filling station on north 5th it would stand to reason it was constructed to service the northbound traffic leaving town. 
The original filling station would have been the right side of the building prior to the addition of service bays.

313 North 5th Street History

  • 1932 Wheeler's Shell Oil Station?       
  • 1940 Jones Harry (my cousins paternal grandfather, later the operator of Brilliant Bronze on Main St.)
  • 1947-56 Myers Phillips 66 Ph 3595-Clarence C Myers (same Myers @ 611 E State Geneva?)
  • 1958-62 Schulz Phillips 66 and used cars?
  • 1970’s Schulz Body Shop Mike Schulz
  • 1996-Present Boyle Body Shop-Denny Boyle

What Do You Remember?

Who remembers when north 2nd Street and the railroad underpass were constructed and the highway was designated Route 31?

Does anyone have early photos of this location that could be shared with the Museum and myself? 

 

History in the making: Jeans and a Cute Top Shop

Fashion over forty shouldn’t be formidable. This sentiment inspired Jill Card to open the first Jeans and a Cute Top Shop in Wheaton in 2009. She and her friends often felt caught between stores targeting their daughters or their mothers. Jill wanted to create a warm, inviting space where women of all ages, shapes, and sizes could find on-trend clothing and accessories. It worked! Customers responded in droves and the St. Charles and Downers Grove locations soon followed.

Women respond to the store because the store responds to them. You never have to shop alone (unless you prefer it, which is great too!). Friendly associates will help you find the right denim and create contemporary outfits that fit your lifestyle and flatter your body type. They’ll take your style to the next level by pairing the perfect necklace, scarf or boots, all affordably priced so you can leave with a complete look without breaking the bank. Trust us, you’ll walk out feeling great and looking fabulous.

New inventory arrives daily so you’ll find something fresh and fun every time you stop in. Everyone wants to age gracefully and stay current. Jeans and a Cute Top Shop helps you do just that. So stop by…and fit in!

For more information about what Jeans & a Cute Top has to offer visit
http://jeansandacutetopshop.com/

History in the making: Johnny Q's Backyard BBQ

The road on the east side of the Fox River, from St. Charles to Elgin, was not the main route between those two towns. It was actually an interstate route 430 that later became Rt. 31. But that didn’t mean the country road that became Rt. 25 was unused or unknown. Rt. 25 was a local shortcut that continued north from where Dunham Road entered into Wayne, Illinois. Rumor has it that many bootleggers during Prohibition used the Fox River to move their whiskey on its way to thirsty customers in St. Charles, Geneva, and Aurora – as well as into Chicago. And those boats unloaded on the east side of the river – away from prying eyes.

But over time, Rt. 25 became a welcome alternative to the crowded Rt. 31 highway to or from Elgin. And many small businesses sprang up along the route to serve hungry customers. Johnny Q’s BBQ continues that tradition today, serving all sorts of smoked meats, sausages and sides like fries and coleslaw. Also ribs only on Friday and Saturday.

For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/johnnyqs4u/