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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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You can go home again but ...

By Barry Schrader.................................March 3, 2010

I had planned a column on this topic later this year and then the Wall Street Journal stole my thunder with a feature last week headed “Finding Our Way Home.”
It was just three years ago last summer when Kay and I returned to DeKalb County for good. One of the first things we did was look for our childhood homes to see how things had changed.
First the good news – for Kay anyway. We took a drive out to Plank Road north of Sycamore and turned down Lukens Road to the curve where her childhood was spent. Wayne and Gladys Wirsing and their five offspring lived on the same farm twice, once in the late

The Wirsing farmhouse on Lukens Road as it appeared many years ago. (Photo provided)

1930s to early 1940s and then after a move to a dairy farm they returned to buy the 160-acre farm in 1951. Kay lived there from age 9 until she married me at age 21. Her folks stayed on much longer, up to 1993.
So Kay had not seen inside her old home for 13 years when we drove down the long lane. We were greeted by its new owners, Larry and Joyce Bond, who in 2002 began a major renovation and expansion of the home. They had torn off the front part of the two-story wood frame structure and added a large 20 by 35 foot front room that stood 23 feet high inside, plus expanded and modernized the kitchen, bathroom and other parts as well.
It was a delight for Kay to see all the improvements and reminisce about rooms that had remained pretty much intact from her childhood. But her front bedroom upstairs had been eliminated because of the remodeled living room. It proved to be a beautiful renovation job and we left with a nice, warm feeling that the old farmstead had been much improved and would endure for many more years.
Later that year I drove down Base Line Road south of Genoa, near the Kishwaukee River bridge where three families had built new homes in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the then-modern ranch style. The three families at that time were Harold and Audrey Wirick, Dick and Mary Snyder (later owned by the Hull family), and my parents. I had learned earlier that our old house had been sold a few times and was a rental property.
My recollection of the extensive landscaping on the three-quarter acre parcel had somewhat inflated my anticipation, and when I saw it in forlorn condition I had “mixed emotions” to say the least. The occupants were not home but I took the opportunity to walk around the house and yard, noting the condition of the crumbling flagstone terracing that my parents had lovingly installed for my mother’s flower beds, the rundown condition of the fence, and that the house needed a coat of paint.
My parents had built most of the house with their own hands, creating a “rumpus room” where the garage had been out front, adding a separate garage in back. They had paneled the interior with various woods popular at the time. The only outside help they sought was for laying the cement block walls, building the flagstone fireplace and plumbing, but most all the carpentry, electrical work and interior finishing had been done nights and weekends when I was in fifth and sixth grades.
We lived there through my high school years and I could fill a book with memories of me and my dog Inky. Boy and dog roamed the pastures around us owned by “Doc” Corson, fishing, wading and boating in the Kish with school chums like Dave Guse, Ken Underwood and Paul Buzzell, plus neighbors Bob and Ken Hull, the twins five years older than me who tolerated my tagging along with them whenever I could. The property blossomed with a seed catalog full of flower varieties and my mother was proud to host the Genoa Garden Club and her PEO sisterhood for outdoor gatherings there in the summers.
So after seeing the exterior and yard I decided not to return later for a peek inside even if the current renters would allow it. My memories will remain fixed of the wonderful childhood in that house and surrounding countryside, not dimmed by its condition a few years ago. Maybe today it looks better but I don’t still feel the need to “go home again.”
The oft-quoted Thomas Wolfe novel passage that “You can’t go home again,” may be true for some people, but don’t most of us long for those bucolic childhood days emblazoned in our minds, especially if we lived in one home long enough to call it “the home place?” Farm families can remain in the same house for generations if they continue farming but most city dwellers move more often and may not even have a single dwelling they can recollect as the place where they were raised.
There must be some people in DeKalb County who returned to the “old home place” years later, then decided to buy it for sentimental reasons or even as an investment. If you know of any, let me know as it might be interesting to share their story in a future column.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115