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
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.
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.
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)
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 mothers 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.
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 dont
still feel the need to go home again.
oft-quoted Thomas Wolfe novel passage that You cant
go home again, may be true for some people, but dont
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.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115