Before we look ahead to 2019, let’s look back 112 years at a copy of the June 29, 1907 Oak Leaves, a copy of which recently fell happily into my hands.
It was a week like any other week in Oak Park. There was a meeting of the Oak Park Horse Show Association at the Scoville Institute — then as now the site of the village’s main library. There were Hemingway social mentions sprinkled across the pages with the Hemingways of Kansas City visiting the Oak Park Hemingways on their way to attend a graduation at Wellesley. Meanwhile on page 5, the Oak Park Hemingways “attended commencement at Wheaton College recently. The college is in a prosperous condition, the present graduating class numbered seven.”
The first news page carried a long, flowery report on the just accomplished graduation of 68 young souls from Oak Park high school. In 2018 the school board considered moving next year’s graduation to the UIC Pavilion. But in 1907, graduation was conducted at the lovely Warrington Opera House at Marion Street and South Boulevard. The condo building currently on the site was christened the “Opera House” in memory of the Warrington.
This issue, and I presume most issues, carried voluminous coverage of Protestant Christianity. Long reports of sermons given. And nary a Catholic nor Jew to be found in the extensive Church Notices column.
Way back on page 15, placed under an ad for a new real estate office on Madison Street, was the disturbing report headlined “Hit By Stray Bullets.” Must admit that a story such as this might have knocked the opening reception of the Oak Park Military Club off the front news page if I were editing the Leaves back then. But since 9-year-old Joe Jonnotta wasn’t hurt badly after getting hit in the head by a stray rifle shot launched “by some boys in a vacant lot” a half-block away, and that H.J. Powell, a working man out collecting for the gas company, wasn’t badly hurt after getting hit in the neck by “a bullet fired from across the tracks” along South Boulevard, it got four graphs.
Phone numbers back then had just four digits. Neice’s Bakery, 123 Oak Park Ave., was, as usual, selling 4th of July fireworks out its back door. Philander W. Barclay, whose candid photos make up the foundation of our local history, was advertising his bicycles for sale. And here’s a discouraging flash about rising prices. A group of six local liverymen announced in an ad that a carriage trip to Forest Home Cemetery — unclear if a corpse is included — had increased to $5, while a trip to Oak Park Hospital was up to $1.50. What was driving these outrageous costs? “The extremely high prices of hay, grain, labor and horse flesh.”
Oak Park was known in those years for its centralized Yaryan heating company, which sat at the corner of Euclid and South Boulevard, pumping heat to the neighborhoods through underground pipes. Oak Leaves carried an ad for Cook & Chick Co., which still had “several carloads of the Screwed Nipple Radiation in stock.” These were, the ad said, the radiators specifically recommended by Yaryan Company.
Back in the classified pages, there was a fellow looking for a swap. He was prepared to trade his modern eight-room house on Cuyler, valued at $4,500, for a good lot in River Forest. Everyone always wants to move to River Forest. Under Help Wanted, there was this: “WANTED – Good girl for general housework to go to country for summer. Mrs. G.W. Woodbury, 213 S. Euclid av. Tel. 1661.” Sixteen of the 20 help wanted ads were, in fact, for girls — good, experienced, neat, of a specific pigment — to clean house.
That’s the news from 1907. As reported by Oak Leaves: “An exclusively local newspaper, devoted to Oak Park and River Forest — two of Chicago’s most beautiful suburbs — with a population of 15,000.”