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Barry Schrader
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I wrote this weekly column for the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, Illinois from December 2007 until May 2011.

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Documentary instills pride in Sycamore

By Barry Schrader.................................October 4, 2011

Talk about community pride and a sense of belonging: Sycamore experienced that en masse recently with the showing of the documentary “Sycamore” as part of the inaugural Sycamore Film Festival.
Probably only 2,000 of the 17,519 Sycamore residents actually saw the film, but the other 15,519 can enjoy the afterglow with those who did. It was an emotional time of sharing for many old-timers and youngsters alike. Stories about the early days and even the last 50 years flowed throughout the film with a warmth and genuineness seldom seen in movies these days. The film alone could probably double the city’s population by attracting throngs of people wanting to live in such an idyllic place.

Pausing outside the Sycamore State Theatre just prior to the showing of the documentary were Maureen Kelley, Mary Ann Cassidy, Bill and Patsy Lundberg. The film was dedicated to the memory of Maureen and Patsy’s mother Phyllis Kelly

Shela Lahey display the special pendant she received for her work on the Sycamore documentary (Barry Schrader photos)

I loved the film’s opening quote by Bob Wildenradt: “There’s old Indian lore that says, ‘If you ever put your feet in the Kishwaukee River you’ll never leave. Or if you do, you’ll always come back.’ ” That sure is true for my wife, a 1960 Sycamore grad. It took 37 years away in California but now she’s returned and happy we made the move back to our roots.
Thanks to the late Phyllis Kelley, county historian, and her colleagues at the Joiner History Room, for some great shots of Sycamore in the old times. And a touching tribute to her memory at the end of the film was appreciated by her daughters, MaureenKelley and Patsy Lundberg. Patsy said her mother was too ill to see a short preview last June but Sycamore State Street Theatre owner Daryl Hopper took a laptop with the film to Phyllis’ home so she could see it, less than a month before she died.
There is some history revealed that many people don’t know about Sycamore: Dirk Johnson told about the key role played by Sycamore residents and farmers in the free soil-free labor movement, which stood for the abolition of slavery. Did you know there are three houses in the area which were part of the Underground Railroad, used to help slaves escape north to freedom? If you saw the film, now you do. This should be a part of the curriculum of every history class in Sycamore schools from now on.
Former Sycamore City Manager Bill Nicklas can be credited with making sure the film got financing. He spread around the praise for its success during the “cast party” after the movie's premiere Sept. 22 at The Stratford Inn when he presented tokens of appreciation to film Director Susan Hope Engel (a basket containing an old movie camera and film reel), and Producer Shela Lahey (a specially designed jeweled pendant crafted by the Paras of Sweet Earth).
Sycamore’s past and present all came together to make it a memorable evening. When you see folks like Marlyn Lenschow Burkart, Tom Henigan, Pete Johnson, Yvonne Johnson, Dr. John Ovitz Jr., Jane Ovitz and more names such as Juday, Dutton, Frank- Stromborg, Thurow, Mundy, Sherrod and Ward, it is a night to remember.
So let’s get on with the film festival planning for next year!

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115