Harriet Duncan In Her Own Words – Part 2

Mom wrote this story of her childhood.  You can see Part 1 here.

[This would have been in the late 1920s or early 1930s.]  One day my Dad took me to the Boston Dry Goods Store and bought me “an ensemble.”  I had never heard of such a thing but I always referred to that two piece knit dress and coat to match as MY ENSEMBLE.  He even bought me some beige shoes with a one-inch heel to go with it — and silk stockings with seams up the back.  When those stockings got a big run I asked him if I could have more.  He said to charge them at Malone’s, so I did.  That was a snap so anytime I wanted something I slid into the habit of charging it to my Dad at Malone’s.  A few months later Grandma Duncan took me to task.  “You can’t go on doing that — these are hard times!”  It sank in and I never charged again — until after I was married.

Lunch at Starved Rocks.

Lunch at Starved Rocks.

Fran and I had many casual boyfriends and a few serious ones.  From time to time we went with the same boys, often in groups, and usually doubledating.  We’d walk to the movies, or go to the Cottage Cupboard for cherry cokes or chocolate cokes or a cheese or chocolate “toastie.”  Those were grilled sandwiches.  Later when the boys had cars we would just ride around and sing and joke.  Later years we would pack a picnic and to go Starved Rock or a lake or Potawatomie Park in St. Charles.  We swam a lot and Fran and I played golf at Sycamore — never got past the dubbing stage.  Some days Fran and I would spend sewing (she was better than I).  We made dresses and teddies to match.  The dresses were always the same pattern — simple waist and full skirt.  We made them in polka dots with teddies to match and another set in red and white checks.

Harriet Duncan & Frances Duffey.  Best friends in matching outfits.

Harriet Duncan & Frances Duffey. Best friends in matching outfits.

Our closest group included Eleanor Case, Helen Kientz, Margaret Donnelly and Helen McNamara.  We had parties with just the six of us sometimes.  When we could we would go to out-of-town football games together.  One time on our way home from a Rochelle game we thought it would be fun to get the football players bus to stop — we were sure they would help us if we were parked beside the road with car trouble.  We parked, put up the hood and the trunk and waited and waited in Helen Mac’s car.  When we saw the bus coming we all stood out beside the care looking helpless.  The guys all waved and went on by.  What a blow!  We got back in the car and it wouldn’t go — had a broken axle.  It was hours before we got home.

I was active in YWCA in high school and Fran more active in Dramatic Club; we both loved G.A.A. (Girls’ Athletic Association).  There were many dances at school.  After school were “Sunset Dances” where half of us stood around and talked waiting to be asked to dance.  But other dances were at night and we always had dates for those and little dance programs with tiny pencils attached.  Your date would line up dances and fill in the programs.  But at the G.A.A. dance the girls asked the boys and we filled out the programs.  There were Junior-Senior proms and Senior-Junior proms.  In other words each year the Seniors would give a prom for the juniors and then the juniors would give a prom for the Seniors before they were graduated.  There was also an annual Christmas Dance.  My favorite prom dress was long and yellow, cut low in the back with a big lavender bow at the waist in back.

Fran was in several plays.  We were both in the Senior Play [they graduated in 1931] — I had a really good part but they told me they couldn’t hear me half way back in the auditorium.  The auditorium was where we had assembly meetings — it had sloped seating as in a theater but the stage was our basketball court so it was huge, but of course draped for plays.  Under that on the basement level was the girls gym with adjoining locker rooms and a big swimming pool.  Fran and I would usually take two P.E. classes each semester, swimming and basketball were our favorites.  Our basketball team played other school.  Fran was better than I at most everything.  Many of our classes were together but when she took soccer, I chose tennis.  When she took sewing, I took economics.  The dumb reason for that was I knew I wasn’t good at sewing and I didn’t want to show how little I knew.  We both went to Glee Club tryouts and made it — not much competition.  Helen had the voice in our family, a lovely alto.

Harriet, Helen, and Barbara Duncan.

Harriet, Helen, and Barbara Duncan.

Our town had money-making plays put on by out of town specialists but using local talent.  We often got in the chorus and it was fun learning songs and dances.  I think the community had great fun watching and laughing at the amateur shows.

One family we saw for picnics and get-togethers were the Herricks.  They owned Hey Brothers Ice Cream factory in DeKalb.  for several years when we were young they lived upstairs over the factory.  I loved to go into the factory.  It was dank and fragrant, always wet underfoot.  The huge vats of ice cream had spigots where the soft ice cream would gush and slide out into what bowl “Uncle” Glen held under it.  The smells were of vanilla and fruit and dampness.  It was a magic place.

The original Hey Brothers Ice Cream was at Dixon.  Their name was Hey and I guess Pauline Herrick was a Hey.  Several families of us went to Heys and with them to Sinnissippi Park for a grand picnic.  I guess I was about severn.  When everyone was stuffed and the last watermelon gone, the group split and went in different cars back to Heys.  They had a well at the Park where people kept the watermelons and lemonade cold and they had a drinking fountain of ice cold water from the well.  On the way to the car I told Mama I was going to go back for one more drink.  Well, they all went without me — families split up in different cars.  I was dumbfounded when I came back to the parking lot and they had all left, but I knew they would come back from Dixon to get me.  Well, nobody came so I walked up the winding entrance to the highway and from there to the nearest farm.  I told the couple my plight and they said they had a telephone and I could use it.  The phone had a crank on it to ring “Central” and I didn’t know how to use it.  Finally the woman cranked it for me and I told Central who I wanted to talk to.  The Heys and all my family were astounded that I wasn’t outside playing with the other kids.  Mother and Dad came for me and felt as sorry for me as I did.

One time at a church Christmas pageant a young girl dressed as Mary kneeled by the cradle and sang Ave Maria.  I was swept away; it was so beautiful.  On the way home I asked Mother what that song was.  She told me but they were hesitant to accept this beautiful song because it was in Latin.  I gathered that wasn’t suitable for a Methodist church.

Uncle Oscar Oakland, Aunt Hannah and adopted daughter, Edna, live on a farm near Creston.  Several summers I spend a week with them.  They had a player piano and lots of rolls.  I would pump away and sing half the day.  Sometimes I rode on the wagon with Uncle Oscar, a big, kindly man.  One day when he was driving a manure spreader with a team of horses he had to stop at the field to open and close the gate.  He let me drive the horse through while he took care of the gate.  A special treat.

Edna came to live at our house while she went to high school and two years of college.  I never thought of it at the time, but no doubt the room and board money came in handy.  We had so many good times as a family.   The craftiest thing we did was make jewelry with candle wax.  Mother bought it in many colors.  She put down papers on the dining room table and lit kerosene lamps for us to heat the wax over.  First we made beads, put a darning needle through them to string them, then we decorated each bead with pretty colored flowers.  Mother was artistic and could crochet, knit and tat was well as do beautiful embroidery.  We made sealing wax pins and “lavaliers” to hang around our necks.  One night as we worked a lamp tipped over and Edna’s arm got terrible burned.  She held it under the kitchen faucet, crying, until Dr. Rankin got there.

After that we had other roomers who came from farms for high school or college — always one at a time.  Orvilla Spencer, Ethel Oakland, Ellis Espe and Ray Wickness.  They didn’t eat with us, just roomed.

Uncle Ed Duncan, Aunt Florence and cousins Mary and Jeanne lived on Normal Road where it is campus now.  The first time I ever tasted leg of lamb was at their house and I thought it was terrific.  Uncle Ed used to referee at our high school and college games.  Then he retired and sold athletic equipment.

Uncle Milo Oakland, Aunt Hazel, Milo Jr. and Donn Eber lived on Augusta Avenue.  He was Head of the Industrial Arts Department at the college.  I babysat for the boys now and then.

Every year there were Oakland family reunions and sometimes Sanderson reunions.  I got to know some of the Oakland cousins fairly well, but there were aunts and uncles I couldn’t remember year to year.

Oakland Reunion.  Harriet, Helen, Barb: center front children.

Oakland Reunion. Harriet, Helen, Barb: center front children.

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5 thoughts on “Harriet Duncan In Her Own Words – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Harriet Duncan In Her Own Words – Part 1 | This I Leave

      • Yes that is my main email. I am very interested in the history of Starved Rock, and any information besides the history of the formation of the park is all I can find. Thanks for the help.

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