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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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Memoirs from growing up in county

By Barry Schrader.................................March 29, 2011

A lot of people talk about someday writing their memoirs, but Cliff Hunt followed through and the result is a polished 225-page book with lots of photos and interesting stories about growing up poor in DeKalb County
Hunt, now nearly 79, spent most of his life in DeKalb, growing up on a small farm off Route 38 near where Peace Road intersects it now.
I like Hunt’s style. He tells it like it was, living with a father who was a “mean drunk,” having a hard life on the farm but a good mother and a helpful grandfather who visited often.
Born in 1932, Hunt was a child of the Depression. The title of the book, “Too Tough for Knickers,” has a fitting photograph on the front of him in his hated knickers. The family had no money for fancy clothes, so he wore what was

Cliff Hunt

available. He explained that those knickers got him into more than one fight in grade school, but he eventually outgrew them. He spent much of his early schooling at the one-room Hiland School off Route 38, then moving to DeKalb city schools.
In talking with him about the book, Hunt remembered that I had been working at the Daily Chronicle when he served on the DeKalb City Council for three years, so we recalled some mutual acquaintances from that time around 1970. He was in the plumbing business for a number of years, then sold out and moved to Oak Park, where he has lived the past 25 years with his wife, Sarah. After moving away, he tried real estate sales for a few years, then took courses in tax preparation and did that for seven years. Now he is retired and volunteers regularly at Grace Episcopal Church, where his plumbing and craftsman skills come in handy.
Getting back to discussing his book, Hunt said he had begun making notes years ago about his life and filled 40 or 50 pages. When he got more serious about the project he talked with his siblings, his friends from school days and others from the same era growing up. He also was fortunate, he said, that his great-grandmother had written a 50-page memoir many years earlier, telling that his great-grandfather served in the Civil War.
“Your grandchildren will probably pay no attention to your memoirs until they are 40 or 50,” Hunt explained.
Hunt had lost his typing skill but took the challenge of composing on a computer and used the two-finger method to put his thoughts down on paper. He did find a couple who had the knowledge of publishing and thinks they made it all possible for him to produce such a professional-looking product. He swapped plumbing work for their editorial help, and it worked out just fine.
Now his former classmates from DeKalb High School and many other friends have copies in hand and must remember how much easier we have it today than during a real depression. It would make a good read for a social studies class to learn about life around DeKalb in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
Anyone wanting to reach Hunt can find him through email at cliffhunt@comcast.net.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115