The Clement C. Moore poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was the catalyst that launched the career of Santa Claus in the United States. Originally published as “A Visit from Saint Nicholas“ in the Troy, New York Sentinel in December of 1823; the verses brought the image of a soot-covered Saint Nicholas and his eight reindeer shuttling Christmas gifts from house to house, and the “jolly old elf ” dropping down the chimney with a bag of toys.

So it’s no surprise that with this image in their heads American children first starting hanging their letters to Santa in the chimney, the theory being that smoke from the fire would magically transport the children’s wishes to the North Pole. This method probably also helped the family save a few scarce pennies on postage. By the 1890’s American children trusted the US Postal Service more than they did fireplace smoke and began mailing their letters to Santa Claus.

Another method of getting the kiddies message to Santa Claus was to publish the letters in local newspapers. A few years ago I reprinted some letters that local children sent to Santa in 1941. This year I’m going to add a twist and reprint some letters that Marengo that wrote to Santa in the 1930’s, at which time the Marengo Republican News ran a column titled “Hunches by Dutch.” The column was commentary on local goings-on and the characters involved; and it was presented in a somewhat satirical and tongue-and-cheek manner by the newspaper’s editor Dutch Weedman.

Although not a letter to Santa; here is one example of Weedman’s work from the December 20, 1934, edition:

“While getting ready to welcome Santa Claus with wide open arms, a chimney large enough to permit him to enter the old style route and by hanging up our little sox, we hope that Santa in keeping with the spirit of the times, has acquired a couple of extra reindeers. We further hope – that he doesn’t knock off at the end of a six hour day – in the spirit of the government’s way of doing things.”

These letters were published in the paper in the decade of the 1930’s, and were written by local citizens – many of them business people:

“Dear Santa Claus: Christmas is so close at hand that I’m writing my annual letter. This year I again want to see my wife have a very nice Christmas. I want you to see that my office girl, Mildred Yerke, has a nice Christmas, too. I’d like to see you make my shop crew, Ben Weaver, Rudy Husfeldt, Dutch Weedman, Sperry Griebel and Bill Hensel very happy. I’d like to see you. I’ll hang up my stocking.

Yours

Edwin W. Dean”

“Dear Santa Clause

Since I experimented with an auto fan last week, let’s say it was for posterity’s sake and may the people profit by it. Santa, I really would like to have two artificial fingertips (latest models) for Christmas, and I mean it. Also a course in ‘Learning to Write and Do Things Right Handed.’”

Your well known friend,

George Hance

 “Dear Santa

Honest, Santa, from past experiences because of being so tired, for Christmas this year I want just one thing. Please bring me someone who will tear out the Christmas window decorations for me before time for my annual Decoration Day straw hat display.”

Sincerely,

Harry Buell

 “Dear Santa Claus;

I have been a good little girl, and so I thought I might get what I ask for. I would like a new boy friend, one that I could really fall for, one that wouldn’t keep me out late at night. He doesn’t have to be a Clark Gable, but fairly good looking.

That’s all I ask for.

 “Pudgy” Webb”

 Dear Santa Claus

I’m going to hang up my sock at home, so bring my presents there. Anyhow, you couldn’t get down my theater chimney for the fire and smoke would drive you away. Keeping my customers warm takes all of my time and plenty of coal, so the fire never goes out. If you really want to do something for me that I’ll appreciate, haul the ashes away.

Your true friend,

Bill Clark

Each month to close this column requires some thought. This month wasn’t any different. In the December 23, 1937, edition Dutch inserted this Season’s Greeting graphic at the end of his column, and below it he wrote his holiday message to Marengo. I’m going to borrow that message not because it’s an easy way for me to close this column, but also as an example of the type of community Marengo was in those days – fun-loving and good-spirited.

Seasons Greetings!

“The above is my most sincere wish to the readers of this column and my friends. Also the enemies, which are, we hope, enemies in word and not in heart and for the most part, just peevish enemies because of little items that may have appeared in this column during the past year. Yes, in going into a huddle with our thoughts, it seems we haven’t abused anyone since the last Christmas – just ‘ribbed’ them some, maybe – so to them we’ll, also, send the same message. Season’s Greetings from Dutch”

     

Three area school districts received an annual distribution from MASEF at the Marengo Union Chamber of Commerce/MASEF dinner on October 19th.

When the temperature goes down the thermostat goes up.

Let’s discuss safety in the home. Half of home fires occur from heat related appliances during the months of December, January and February (for obvious reasons). Accidents happen; however, accidents can be prevented - here are a few tips to help prevent an accidental fire in your home:

1. Heating appliances - Plug only ONE into an outlet; do not use an extension cord or a power strip. Keep the heating appliance at least 3 feet from furniture, curtains or other non-fire retardant items. Ensure that a portable heater cannot be knocked over by a child or a pet. Turn it off when you leave your home. If you have an older heating appliance, consider getting a new one.

2. Chimney Fires – Be proactive - is the chimney cleaned? Is it solid; not rusted out? Your chimney should be inspected and cleaned. Animals could have built nests in your chimney, vegetation could have grown over it – take the time and inspect the chimney and be careful when going on the roof and using a ladder!

3. Fireplace, wood stoves - when removing ashes, put the ashes in a METAL approved container, and store them outside, away from your house. Do not discard ashes in the garbage, as hot coals could cause a fire up to a week later! Do not vacuum ashes, as an ember could cause a fire in your vacuum cleaner bag. Ensure that furniture, drapes, blankets are at least 3 feet away from the heating source. Keep any items that can be knocked over away from the heating source

How about the barn; are your animals safe? Union and the surrounding areas are farming communities with frequent barn fires. Fire safety needs to extend from the home, into the barn. The leading cause of a barn fire is heating equipment. Below are a few tips to help protect your barn and your livestock:

1. Heat lamps and portable heaters are dangerous, if not reviewed properly. Free-hanging heat lamps need to be secured and cords need to be kept out of reach of animals, and of fowl that may fly into them, or knock them down.

2. Have large ABC Fire extinguishers placed throughout the structure. Quick response may extinguish a fire, and save the lives of your animals and your property.

3. Consider purchasing a smoke monitoring device that can be installed with external audio or even smart-phone apps that will alert to a fire. These smoke detectors can be damaged by dust in the barn, so a monthly inspection should be part of maintenance.

4. Do what you can to eliminate the use of extension cords, and prevent cords from being accessible to animals or lying on the ground where they can be damaged.

5. Spontaneous combustion of hay and bulk grain is responsible for less than 5% of these fires - if practical, minimize the risk of this type of fire by storing away from the main structure.

Be safe and have a Merry Christmas from the Union Fire Protection District. 

       

Hooves to Heal brought five riders to compete at Special Olympics of Illinois on 10/28 & 10/29 at Bravehearts at the Bergmann Center in Poplar Grove.

Our riders that competed were Lizzie Goodwin, Hannah Gaffigan, Christian Foster, Karen Jensen, and Avery Ybarra. As a team, they brought home 2 golds, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals.

Margaret L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite books as a kid, so I was looking forward to attending one of the performances offered by the MCHS Drama Department November 16- 18. Director Kate Griffin and her students always produce quality performances and this one didn’t disappoint.

The story is billed as “children’s science fiction,” so I was delighted to recognize a young friend in the audience and sat with her. Lilly Volpe is in the fourth grade. She had heard about the play and convinced her Grandmother, Barb Volpe to come along. “I haven’t read the book yet,” said Lilly, “but I think I will after I see the play. If it’s any good.” (Lilly is a practical young lady!)

As Act 1 ended, Lilly gasped, “They can’t just end it like that!” An evil creature had just threatened the characters and the stage went dark. She was very into the play and relieved when she learned it was only intermission.

During intermission I spoke with the girls handling the sound board. Lexi Menig is a Senior who has been working on the sound board since she was a Freshman. Now, as she nears graduation, she has taken on an assistant to train in the many aspects of providing background music and controlling volume for all the voices in a play. Freshman Kim Zarate is enjoying working on her first play and hopes to stay with the job.

The staging for this production is interesting because nearly all the actors play “readers,” who not only narrate the story but join in on the action by playing the various characters within the story. I wondered how a child would understand this staging device, so I checked with Lilly. “I like how they were reading the story and then they became part of it,” she said. I liked it, too. Judging from the applause and the comments after the play, everyone else did as well.

I noticed something about the MCHS Play experience. These plays have become part of the entertainment for lots of Marengo’s citizens. I’ve been to many a high school play where the audience is made up largely of the cast’s relatives and some fellow students. While these groups were certainly present at this performance, my informal poll of the audience turned up more people with no special connection to any cast members, but an expectation, based on past experience, of a good story presented well. Lilly was drawn to the story; her grandmother knew they would have an entertaining evening.

“I’m glad I saw it,” Lilly assured me. “I’m going to read the book now. It has a good message.” When asked what that message is, she answered without hesitation, “Don’t be afraid to be yourself.” Put the MCHS Spring Musical dates on your calendar. It’s going to be a good one: Godspell, coming March 8-10, 2018.

    

Sunday, November 5th Christian Barns of BSA Troop 530 was awarded the prestigious Eagle Scout Award at First Baptist Church in Marengo. Christian was fortunate to have his father Kevin Barnes, the Scout Master and brother/Eagle Scout Matt Barnes, present his award to him along with Assistant Scout Masters, Life Scout Mike Grant and fellow scouts. Christian had completed a new dog shelter at Glory Bound Rescue Ranch as his project. After volunteering there on multiple occasions, the existing dog shelter was in poor condition and would be a perfect opportunity as his Eagle Project.

The project was completed with the coordination of volunteers and donations in less than 3 weeks. Christian plans to continue with Troop 530 and mentor younger scouts to also reach this remarkable achievement.

FIRE RESULTS IN AIR LIFT                                                                                                        

Personnel from the Marengo Fire Protection District and rescue unit, along with the Marengo Police department went to the scene of a reported house fire, and evacuated one man with injuries that resulted in an airlift to the Maywood Loyola University Medical Center. Crews arriving on the scene Nov. 3 at 10:15 p.m. found smoke coming from the first floor level of the home in the 700 block of East Grant highway (Route 20).

 “When our department arrived at the scene, there was smoke coming from the east side of the building on the first floor,” said District Captain John Kimmel. “There were three police officers already at the scene, and they were able to pull him to safety. They established the care lift to the hospital. As I understand, he is recovering from his injuries.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and the structure was not a total loss. Other fire protection districts near the vicinity also responded as back-up aid.

SERVICES AGREEMENT FOR GRANT HIGHWAY TIF APPROVED

The City Council approved a motion to execute a services agreement with Mc Henry-based HR Green for the 20009 East Grant Highway (Route 20) improvements that will help propel a new retail center at the site, during its Nov. 27 session. The 7-1 affirmative vote will allow for the preparation and processing of water and sewer extensions to the site, as well as a left-turn lane for access to the property from the state thoroughfare.

An addendum agreement would provide for a rightturn lane, if warranted, and HR Green would design the public improvements associated with the project. The water main and sanitary lines would cross north-to-south and include the shepherding of permits from two state of Illinois governmental units, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency

The motion also covered an agreement with the retail center’s developer, the Marengo-based Corey Brackman Construction Co., for funding the cost of the design and engineering studies, not to exceed $23,000. They have already supplied a deposit toward the amount, and will later be included as part of the tax-increment financing incentives that were previously approved.

The design schedule is slating a 50 per cent completion plateau by Dec. 22, and a Jan. 30 date for final plan submission. A redevelopment agreement, approved by the city council Sept. 25, employed considerations on tax-increment financing assistance with the site owners, S & V Property LLC. The TIF monies can accrue up to $550,000 on the estimated $1.7 million cost of the proposed project.

Plans also call for the Marengo Pharmacy to re-locate to the new mall, from its 308 State Street downtown site, leasing arrangements for a Dunkin’ Donuts, a liquor store, and an unspecified potential fourth commercial lessee.The site designs, plat drawings, and construction data must still be approved by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, with a final vote before the full city council.

Zion Lutheran Church is proud to announce the addition of Pastor Jonathan Ripke as the new Associate Pastor. He and his wife Megan have two daughters, Alice and Ella and reside in Marengo. Pastor Ripke had completed 6 years of service at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hooper Nebraska, prior to accepting his call from Zion. He completed his undergraduate studies at Concordia Seward, NE and his seminary work at Concordia St. Louis, MO. Pastor will be joining Reverend Dr. Glen Borhart to help support worship, school and outreach ministries. Please join us in welcoming the Ripke family to Marengo!

American Legion Kishwaukee Post 192 of Marengo Illinois held a traditional flag retirement ceremony, along with Boy Scouts from Troop 163 on October 23 in Indian Oaks Park. There are only a few authorized organizations approved to perform this event to ensure that an American flag is retired with honor, dignity and respect. The scouts satisfied a requirement by attending this event and participate in this honor every year.

Kathy Sroka, Science teacher at Marengo Community Middle School has received certification for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). STEM encompasses a vast area of subjects which include aerospace, engineering, astrophysics, computer science, mathematical biology, and robotics, among many others.

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