Take the time to visit the Sycamore
History Museum on the old Engh Farm on Route 23 just north of
town if you or your family has had any connection with local
industries during the past 100 years.
Kay and I took advantage of the free holiday open house recently,
and did it ever bring back memories for me.
After my grandfather Will Schrader died in his early 60s, my
grandmother Ethel had to find a job as they had lost their farm
during the Great Depression and had no savings, just a small
Social Security check.
She found work at Turner Brass when she was in her mid-60s and
stayed there on the assembly line for 10 years, until her arthritis
and age took too much of a toll on her.
I told this story to friends before leaving California five years
ago and a group of them chipped in to buy me a sentimental going
away present a genuine Turner blow torch made in Sycamore,
all polished up just like the one my grandma used to assemble.
It now holds a prominent place in our living room bookcase.
As we were touring the exhibit I noticed women admiring the big
1984 Olympic torch, also made by Turner Brass. I was pleased
to learn of their personal connection to that torch project.
The daughter of one of the makers of this particular torch, Jeannie
Ledesma, and her daughter, Ashley Greenlee, were visiting from
California and stopped at the museum. They got permission to
remove it from the case, using white gloves, and hold it high
for my camera.
They also put me in touch with their father, Jim Cruise,
in La Verne, Calif., who told me the story of the making of those
torches while he was the plant engineer in Sycamore.
Doesnt this cigar box lid with the Belle
of Sycamore portrait resemble a young
Marlyn Burkart? (Photo provided)
Jwannie Ledesma, at right, and
Ashley Greenlee of LaVerne,
Calif. came to see
the Turner Olympic
Torch that Jeannies
father worked on
while at Turner Brass in Sycamore