Olney memories # 36


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Hi Ann!

Thanks once again for a great installment of Olney Memories.  It is really great for some of the younger people that are interested in the history of Olney to be able to hear first hand what it was like years ago.  I am grateful to everyone that contributes.

As I have told you before, I am in the process of restoring the house at 302 E. Elm that is more commonly known to Olney residents as the Keiffer or McLean house.  I have put together a small website that documents some of the restoration process as well as tells a little about me.  I thought you and your readers might be interested in checking it out.  The website is: 


Thanks again for all your work in keeping the history of Olney alive!

Jason Kern
Class of '92

Tric & Brad Martin


Hi Ann and all the other old fogies out there, who grew up in a different world than our children and grandchildren know today. Thought this would be good for the beginning of a New Year......and may everyone be blessed in it.  Best Regards,   Tricia (1966) and Brad (1965) Martin


This is a great site.  I forgot how much I knew and forgot, until I checked it out.


So ..... turn up the volume,  put up your feet,  click on this link for a trip down memory lane...........  and enjoy.........



Tric & Brad Martin

Class of ’66 & '65


Clarence Smith


I read with interest,  Jim Dale's contribution to Olney Memories #35

concerning Olney's ice plant.  I also have some personal memories of the ice plant since I worked there shortly after high school for a couple of months. It was hard work even for a young man.

Some recollections.......

It was very hot in the building, except for the time spent in the freezer.
You would go back and forth to temperature extremes from temperatures  in the 90's to the 20's.  The building always smelled of ammonia because of the refrigeration units.  The area where the ice was frozen was elevated from the main floor by 5 or 6 feet.  There must have been 50 or so compartments in the elevated area, individually covered by numbered wooden lids.  In each compartment would be 2 heavy steel containers, each capable of holding 300 pounds of ice.  An overhead movable hoist with a cable hookup and connectors
would be used to remove and insert the containers in the compartments.  A suspended electric control box would enable the operator to raise and lower the hoist over each compartment.  They called removing a container.." pulling ice".  Once pulled, you would manually push the ice and hoist assembly mounted on tracks over to an upright wooden trough.  Lowered into the trough and disconnected from the hoist, the steel containers would then be sprayed

with a water hose (much like running water over ice cube trays) to loosen the ice.  The trough was mounted on a pivot.  A trip lever would allow the trough and ice containers to fall backwards, releasing the ice from the containers and falling  through an opening and sliding down a ramp into the freezer area.  Once the ice was removed, the trough was brought back to an upright position, latched, and filled to a marked level on the containers with the water hose.  Now the tricky part....to attach the hoist, lift up and push the containers filled with water back to the compartment, and lower them into a very narrow opening with a swinging hoist without spilling the water!  If spilled, you would have to start all over and refill with water at the trough (which would bring grumbling from the only other person

working at the plant, the supervisor, or whatever he was called.)  Once
inserted, the compartment number and the time was logged onto a record sheet.  After a certain length of time, the lids were removed and the ice was checked.  Ice freezes from the outside in, so when the ice has frozen into a small area in the center, a suction hose is used to remove the water and the air, (this is called "removing the core") and then refilled with fresh water.  This assures that the ice is clear throughout.  After being checked at a later interval for total freezing, the cycle was complete and ice was ready to be pulled again.
Now, after getting soaked from sweat, it's time to put on a warm jacket and head for the freezer.
As I said before, the 300 pound block of ice slides down a ramp into the freezer.  In the freezer near the ramp is a machine that scores (cuts
shallow) the ice block.  It is still in one piece but is marked for (6)  50
pound blocks that can be separated with an ice pick.  You must use ice tongs to slide the ice into and away from the machine.  Then, you slide the block into a separate storage room that is lined with panels of cork for insulation. I can still remember the last,  and most difficult step in working the ice.
It took a while to master,  taking the end of the 300 pound block with the tongs, and, with one motion, flipping it up to stand on end for storage. Needless to say, several blocks were broken before I got the hang of it.
However, all was not lost.  A part of my job was to crush and bag ice for vending to the outside.  So I got to package my errors!  I also used a pick and cut 50 pound blocks for vending.

I'm sure that more modern techniques are used today, but this is the way ice was made in the old ice plant in 1960 and the following years until the plant was shut down.

I thought your readers might be interested in hearing how it was done, Ann.
Keep the memories coming.  I, and everyone else, enjoy them!

Clarence Smith (Smitty)

Class of '60

Sue Turpin Engle




Class of 1960

Loy Zimmerle


Loved the article on the Ice House.

Any chance that the authors might have info on the Vinegar Plant or the Blackburn/ Kralis Poultry Plant?


How about Photo's?

Both of these buildings were in Goosenibble but I have never been able to find  photo's of them.
Poke and Plum


Loy Zimmerle

Class of ‘57

Tom Gallagher


I remember something called “Shaggy Dog Stories.” These were very long, convoluted tales that took many twists and turns for 30 minutes or more before finally reaching a surprising and absurd ending. They were almost as complex as the old Norse sagas and after all these years I can only remember bits and pieces of three – “The Shrike,” “The Bushmaker” and “Bad Rabbit,” a story I got from my friend, John Forsyth. But when I was growing up in Olney, I knew at least half a dozen. They were always told at night, either around a campfire or by the dim light of a flashlight at a back yard sleep over. These small, outside gatherings of a few friends at someone’s house were really misnamed since very little sleeping actually took place. I doubt that today’s youth, brought up on T V’s quick, punchy sound bits, would have any patience for the old shaggy dog yarns with their quirky endings. But to borrow a phrase from the 50’s we thought they were swell.

I remember that nobody ever died in Olney. When someone prominent – or even not so prominent – left this vale of tears for the great beyond, the Olney Daily Mail (which I later learned was named for a famous London newspaper, not because it was delivered by the postman, which it wasn’t) always ran the obituary headline, “So-in-so Passes.” An outsider, glancing at the Daily Mail for the first time, might conclude that So-in-so had just successfully completed the bar exam or perhaps had made a brief stop in Olney while traveling across the United States on a pogo stick. What a wonderful thing it was to live in a place where no one ever did such a crass thing as die!

I remember the time Mrs. Griffin, my favorite English teacher, gave Earl Parish and me an assignment to do a dramatic reading from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Mrs. Griffin approved our selection of the famous dueling scene from the play (Act V, Scene VIII) and gave us a week to prepare. Earl and I decided that he would play Macbeth and I would be Macduff. Earl found an old pair of fencing foils at home and I made a pretty realistic, full-sized paper machete head for our other key prop. I painted all the facial features in life like colors, glued on hair from an old wig and took special pains so it would appear that the head had just been severed from Macbeth’s body. To achieve this gory illusion, I drenched the jagged neck in red and attached a piece of bloody looking foam rubber so that it dangled down simulating the mutilated inner parts of the throat. Earl and I were both pleased with the effect. Since we were not required to memorize our lines, only read them, we needed very little practice. This allowed us to focused on how to stage the scene in such a way that our classmates would find it interesting and enjoyable while meeting Mrs. Griffin’s requirement that it be dramatic – she encouraged creativity and therefore had given us no further directions. We decided that adding humor and mayhem to the inherent drama of the scene was just the ticket. The day of our reading came soon enough and we were ready. When Mrs. Griffin called us forward, Earl and I got up from our seats and strode confidently to the front of the classroom. We each took up a sword in one hand, balanced an open text in the other hand and started to read with great feeling. Soon we arrived at the part where Macbeth and Macduff begin their duel. Before long, our classmates were laughing at the absurdity of the scene as we chased each other around Mrs. Griffin’s desk while thrashing noisily at each other with a sword in one hand and an open book in the other. Enough noise was now coming from our room that it could be heard in the adjacent classes and the library just across the hall. As the scene reached its climax where Macduff kills Macbeth, I advanced on Earl as he backed out the door and up the hall beyond the view of those in our classroom. We engaged in a final furious clashing of swords, then Earl let out a blood-curdling cry and went into loud and very dramatic death throws. By this time, people from the library and all along the hall had come out to see what was going on. In the midst of this confusion, I picked up Macbeth’s severed head that we had prepositioned in a wastebasket just outside our room and carried it by the hair back into class. Standing somewhat out of breath in front of the class, I held up the head as a trophy with one hand and read Macduff's final lines. Earl then reappeared from the hall – and from death – as we took our bow. The class loved it and so did Mrs. Griffin. That was the most fun I ever had studying Shakespeare.
I remember a real haunted house, way out in the country northwest of Olney, somewhere between Dundas and Newton. Legend had it that the last owner had committed suicide by hanging himself on the front porch. The first time I visited the place was with a carload of guys. It was not easy to find, especially at night, but someone in the car knew how to get there. It had been a typical one-story, wood frame farmhouse, with a barn and several other out buildings. There were no other houses in sight. As we drove onto the property, you could see even in the dark that it was a mess. The place had obviously been abandoned for a long time. The yard was overgrown, the windows were broken, there was almost no paint left on the house or buildings and things were beginning to crumble, sag or topple. We got out of the car, turned on a flashlight we had with us and walked toward a door hanging open at the side of the house. Up close, the house looked really creepy and there was something sinister about the place that went beyond its mere dilapidated appearance. The first room we entered had apparently been the kitchen. There was a sink, broken down table and chairs, a wood burning range and old pots, pans, dishes and other junk scattered all over the place. A musty, dead odor hung in the air, the old floor creaked under our feet and there was a rustle as the wind blew through the broken windows. We moved on to what had been a living room and a bedroom. They too looked like who ever had lived there just abandoned the place along with most of its furnishings. There were even tattered curtains hanging at some of the windows. From the living room, we went out the front door onto the porch. There, hanging from a hook in the ceiling was a heavy old hemp rope knotted like a nose. Whether or not this was left there from the suicide of legend, or something put there by a prankster I can’t say, but it was a very chilling sight and we were scared. We had seen all that we had come to see and we got out of there in a hurry. About a year latter, a friend of mine and I decided to take our dates to the haunted house. We had both been there before and knew what to expect. It had been a very frightening experience the first time but we hadn’t felt any real danger. Going there at night was a thrilling adventure, sort of like riding on a roll-a-coaster or sky diving. We figured the girls would find it a thrill too and that taking them to the old house would make us look brave in their eyes. We went there on a chilly fall night under a harvest moon and we were not disappointed. Just as we had hoped, the girls were really scared as we explored the old place and they clung to us for dear life. That was one of the cleverest ways I ever came up with to get a girl to let me put my arm around her and squeeze her tight on a first date.
I remember another kind of house in Olney called a “Lustron” that my friend, Dick Landenberger and his family lived in about a block from the Silver Street School. Lustrons were factory manufactured houses made of steel that arrived on the construction site in kit form ready for assembly. Most models were two-bedroom homes that originally sold for about $10,000, lot not included. First marketed in 1948, they initially enjoyed wide popularity but enthusiasm soon waned and the company went out of business in less than two years; only about 2,600 Lustrons were ever built. The home’s most distinctive feature was its porcelain enameled square steel panels that jig sawed together to form the outer walls. Even the simulated wood shake roof was made of enameled steel. The manufacturer claimed that all that was ever needed to clean its exterior was a garden hose, spray nozzle and water. I suppose the same could have been said of the interior too, which was also made of enameled steel. Lustrons came in a relatively small range of colors such as dove-gray and surf-blue with contrasting trim. As I recall, the Landenberger’s Lustron was some shade of tan. Inside were built-in vanities, storage units and bookshelves all made of steel, pocket doors that slid into wall panels and a rather strange combination dishwasher/clothes washing machine. Can you imagine eating off of plates run right after having done a load of diapers? And since the interior walls were made of enameled steel, they could not be painted. To hang things like pictures, owners used magnets. Lustrons were the brainchild of a colorful Chicago business executive named Carl Strandlund. He saw himself as a sort of Henry Ford of factory-built housing and planned to entice customers with new models and features, just like the auto industry. Some of the upgraded accessories he envisioned were such things as electric windows, additional built-in appliances and storage units, remotely controlled sliding walls and standardized interchangeable parts that would make it easy to add a room or take one off an existing Lustron house. The Landenbergers seemed happy with their Lustron. It was economical, required little maintenance and certainly stood out as the only house of its kind in Olney.

I remember many teenage pranks from my years growing up in Olney. I know first hand about most of these adventures since I helped pull off my share and was the butt of even more. For some reason, most of the mischief was the work of us guys. But a group of girls pulled one of the most successful pranks I can remember from my high school years. It was around Valentine’s Day of my freshman year and the ritual of exchanging cards and candy with schoolmates, begun in kindergarten, was still widely practiced within my circle of friends. That year, five of the most popular girls in ERHS got together and made a large batch of very special fudge laced with Ex-Lax (a chocolate flavored laxative). They cut it into generous squares and put it in a couple of red heart-shaped candy boxes. They carried these to the Arcadia Theatre, Mikes Ice Cream Shop and other teen hangouts where they passed out pieces to unsuspecting friends, including me. The next day an unusually large number of kids were absent from school, home with what we initially thought was some sort of bug that made it impossible for us to venture very far from the toilet. But we soon figured out what had really happened. It was a long time after that before my taste for fudge returned. Another favorite prank in those days was the old burning bag routine. This was usually carried out around Halloween and some crabby adult, unpopular with the kids, was invariably the victim. The drill worked like this. You took a large, heavy-duty paper grocery bag, filled the bottom with a fresh cow patty or dog droppings and twisted the top into sort of a wick. Then, sometime after dark and making sure the victim was home, you put the bag on the porch or ground just outside their front door, lit the top of the bag, pushed the door bell, yelled “FIRE” and ran to a place where you could watch but not be seen. If things went according to plan, the cramudgen would open the door, see the burning bag and stomp on it to put out the fire. What happened then I leave to your imagination. My friend, Ted Crackel planned and executed one of the most daring and original school pranks carried out during my time at ERHS. The target of his mischief was Miss Claribel Benson, a somewhat high strung but otherwise benign English teacher. I was not involved in this adventure and forget some of the details but I do remember that Ted had accomplices. The setup generally went like this: Ted tied some sort of powerful firecracker (a cherry bomb or center fuse) to a string carefully cut so that when the explosive devise was lit and pushed out the window of a second story window, it would explode just above the first floor classroom in which Miss Benson was teaching. How Ted arranged to be strategically located at just the right time and place and how he managed to lit and drop the tethered bomb I do not know but Ted was always resourceful and somehow he did it. When the bomb went off, one of Ted’s cohorts in crime, who was in Miss Benson’s class, jumped up and started yelling “Bomb, Bomb!” This escapade had the desired effect when Miss Benson became hysterical and rushed out of the classroom. Again, as I remember, no one was ever punished. My pranks were often more subtle than these. I came from a family of staunch Republicans and there was a street called “Douglas Drive” in what was then a fashionable new part of Olney. This street was named for the well-known Democratic Senator from Illinois, Paul Douglas. As it happened, many residents of Douglas Drive were prominent Democrats. At that time, Illinois’s other Senator was the Republican, Everett Dirkson. So, one winter I went about making new signs renaming the street “Dirkson Drive”. Under the cover of darkness, I glued my signs over all the old Douglas signs. I was never caught and did not tell my parents about my political dirty trick. Although Mother and Dad were Republicans to the bone, they were first and foremost adults and therefore would never have understood nor approved what I had done. My altered signs stayed up for a good long time (I used powerful glue). I like to think that they were noticed, hopefully with irritation and disdain, but nothing was ever mentioned publicly about them. Still, I got great pleasure from driving by and admiring my work during the weeks that followed. Other pranks that I heard about from my friends may have actually happened or they may have simply been stories told over and over again through the years until they took on a life of their own and were taken as fact. Several of these had to do with cars. One involved cramming a raw potato into the exhaust pipe of a parked car. When the victim returned and started the engine, so the story went, either the muffler would explode with a loud bang or the car would backfire, propelling the potato like a projectile from a gun. Then there were the stories about lifting or jacking up the rear end of a car, putting blocks under the axial and lowering it down again so that the drive wheels were left just off the ground. When the victim returned, started his engine and put it in gear, he was stupefied to discover that while the motor raced, the car would not move. One classic car prank story told around Olney when I was growing up was recreated many years later in the movie “American Graffiti.” In this escapade, the rear axial of a car was chained to a tree and when the victim attempted to drive off, either he spun his wheels or, under ideal circumstances, ripped the axial right out from under the car as he attempted to speed off. A less destructive car prank, usually attributed to girls, involved filling an unoccupied vehicle with inflated balloons and hiding to watch the surprised reaction and befuddlement of the driver when she returned. Looking back on these pranks, it seems to me that some showed real originality, ingenuity and skill while others seem just plain dumb or mean spirited. In today’s society, all would probably be considered criminal. But in those days, they were generally accepted as the natural expression of exuberant youth. Times have certainly changed, perhaps for the better, perhaps not.

I remember evenings when a group of my high school friends and I would get an urge to go dancing under the stars. These were impromptu events inspired by the mild weather in late spring or early fall when young spirits are drawn to the beautiful outdoors. Kids would be hanging out in Mike’s Ice Cream Shop, cruising around in a car or coming out of the Arcadia Theatre after a movie and someone would suggest that we round up a few friends and gather on the old abandoned stretch of road just east of town. It wasn’t far and within half and hour or so four of five carloads of kids would be parked under the stars. Someone would find a good radio station on one of the car radios and turn it up real loud. Another car would point its headlights onto the pavement in the middle of our gathering and we were set. Everyone would pile out of the cars and use the bumpers and hoods like bleachers at a sock hop. We’d hang out there, talking and dancing for an hour or so and then the group would break up and we’d head home. We never drank beer or liquor at these gatherings, but I can remember that the feeling I got listening to our music and having fun with my friends on a balmy night, gave me as good a high as I’ve ever had. For me, it’s the simple pleasures that, over the years, have left the sweetest memories.
All that I’ve put down here is the truth and all the things I’ve written about actually happened. It is all together possible, however, that some of the details reflect the way I would like to remember them. But they are still the truth or my truth anyway.
Tom Gallagher

ERHS Class of ‘57

Christine (Kern( Allois

My family and I have recently purchased an older home

here in Olney, and as so many of you have such

wonderful memories of this town, I was wondering if
anyone may have any information about our 'new' home. 

It is one story with a steeply pitched roof and northern dormer

(making it appear as though it could be two stories)
built in 1933, and is located at 1039 E. Cherry St. on
the southwest corner of Cherry and Jasper.  I believe
that the original owners of the house were Paris and
Zilla (Della?) Pritchard, and the last, William and
Marjorie Swearingen.  Some of the more notable
features are the two remaining brick pillars to the
front of the house (the third is no longer standing),
which we believe Mr. Pritchard may have built as he
was a brick mason.  The house is just a baby compared to some
here in town, but  I think it's still old enough to
have some interesting history attached to it.  It's
definitely one of the oldest (if not the oldest) still
standing on the east side of town, which is why I'm
hoping someone may recall it... also the fact that
it's a depression era house is rather unique.
Probably not too many new homes were built around that
time.  If anyone has any memories that
they would like to share, we would love to read them!

Christine (Kern) Allois

Class of 1997

John Fritchey



Due to the recent death of my father, I am in possession of Olneans for the years of '38 and  '48.  I also have copies of the Claremont Cardinal from the years '40, '41, '43, and '46. If anybody on the list would like to have information or pictures from these issues, I would be glad to scan it and send it on. I can be contacted at fritchey@houston.rr.com.

Thanks.....and keep up the good work.

John Fritchey

Class of 1961


Class of 1960 45th Reunion

Labor Day Weekend 2005

Friday, Sept.2 ….Welcome at: Elks Club Room, 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept 3…Richland Country Club

12:00 Lunch on grill

6:00 Pork Loin Cook Out

This announcement is sent so plans can be made for the above dates. More information to the 1960 Classmates will follow at a later date.
cjsmith@otbnet.com ......... Clarence Smith

avery@amtransport.com... Avery McKinney

knbwood@otbnet.com...... Bobbie Hoff


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