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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

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.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Long ago therapy was to compile book

By Barry Schrader.................................April 12, 2011

A phone call to the Daily Chronicle office back in 1972 asking to talk to the editor brought me into contact with a remarkable woman.
She said her name was Helen Bingham, and she wanted me to visit her on a farm on Old State Road between Clare and Sycamore.
I would have normally requested that a caller come to the office, but she explained she was in a wheelchair, so I went out. I learned that she had multiple sclerosis, was in her early 50s and was a writer. She was compiling a book of tidbits of local history and wanted permission to include some columns that had been published in the Daily Chronicle.
This winter I came across her book, “My Scrapbook of Collections and Recollections,” and wondered what had become of her since I had moved away to California in late 1972. I located her obituary at the Joiner History Room and realized she had passed away in May 1973 at age 52, not long after her book was completed.
Checking the phone book I found her son, Art, who still lives on the family farm. So I made another trip to that farmhouse last month, the same one where I met her nearly 40 years earlier. He explained

Helen Bingham, Author

that she also had terminal cancer at the time of my first visit, and this book project was her therapy and kept her going. Because of the MS, she could only type painfully on an old manual typewriter, but a cousin, Donna Synnott Lazer, took her drafts and composed the pages on an IBM Selectric. That’s why the book looks like it was set on a typewriter.
Art said his mother began the book project a decade earlier when a young boy brought her some old letters he had found in an empty farmhouse near Electric Park. From that beginning, she collected bits and pieces of history she found fascinating about life in DeKalb County from the early times until the 1950s.
One can find columns in it from Homer Hall, who wrote under the pen name Uncle Silas for the Chronicle in the early 1960s; an interview she had with C.R. “Luke” McLagan, who wrote for the Sycamore Tribune and True Republican; and even the Civil War diary of Dexter Wesson. She took excerpts from the “History of DeKalb County” by Henry Boies printed in 1868. Then there were selections from diaries and old letters written by young people about their lives in this county a century or more ago.
She included accounts of the Great Depression, the barbed wire barons, catching grave robbers, World War I and the early days with Native Americans – all fascinating, real-life experiences.
But Helen reserved the longest chapter – 60 pages – for her own memoirs that she decided to include late in the project. Art, had been on a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and she got it done in time to surprise him when he returned home.
On my recent visit, Art also shared an unpublished book of her poetry. She was clearly a talented woman in many ways, and I hope someday the poems will be published as well.

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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