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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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Bill Heriaud a familiar figure around Somonauk-Sandwich

By Barry Schrader.................................June 9, 2009

He maintains a daily routine, making the rounds to coffee breaks between his favorite hangouts in Sandwich and Somonauk. Six days a week he plans his route so he always gets to socialize with the crew at Jim’s Automotive shop in Somonauk and the guys in the shop at the Sandwich fairgrounds.
Bill Heriaud retired 29 years ago and now at age 93 figures he has more than surpassed the average number of years a company pays a pensioner. He is enjoying his social calendar so much he doesn’t plan to slow down either.
I met him one morning at Jim’s where his family used to have their workshop next to the house they formerly owned. If it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday he can be found “shooting the breeze” with his Somonauk friends, then Tuesday, Thursdays and sometimes even on Saturdays he gets together with the fairgrounds gang.
Bill told me about his grandfather coming over from France and his father who spent many years hauling livestock to the Chicago stockyards while Bill’s brothers Bob and Don farmed north of Somonauk. Even before that as kids they would walk more than a mile across the fields to the old Victor country school on Chicago Road. He recalled in winter the boys would hunt rabbits in their

Bill Heriaud stands outside Jim’s Automotive next to his big red Dodge Durango. (Barry Schrader – Daily Chronicle)

snowy lairs and pull them out by the ears and end their life before carrying the carcasses on to school where they were hung on a tree, later to be skinned and dressed to put meat on the table.
Once he finished fifth grade he transferred to the old Somonauk school where he graduated in 1938. During the Depression he worked for the local grocer, hauling orders to customers’ homes in his wagon, then digging potatoes and candling eggs as well. For fun he and other boys would go roller skating on the hardwood floor upstairs at an abandoned furniture factory, but since it was condemned they would get chased off regularly. He remembers that hoboes often occupied the first floor since it was close to the railroad tracks.
After high school he found work with a farmer who paid a dollar a day for haying and other chores. Then he got the idea to try a couple factories in Aurora at the outset of World War II and received two offers the same day, choosing Lyon Metal since it was closest to the train depot where he rode the “Billy train” from Somonauk and back daily. He became a journeyman aluminum welder, first working on plane parts for the war effort and then moved on to fabricating tail sections for Corsairs and trainers. Then he worked on phone booths, some are the kind you see along tollways. Welding was his life and he stayed there 40 years, retiring in 1980. Meantime, about 1960 he had moved to Sandwich, where he still resides today.
Bill admits to having a fondness for new cars and trucks. He told about his first car a Whippet coupe. Then there was that new 1949 Nash and a year later he spotted a 1950 Nash Ambassador, fully loaded, and got the salesman to let him have it for only $1,000 and the smaller ‘49 model as a trade-in. He had only paid $1,800 for the first Nash the year before, so did get a good deal. Now he can be found in a full-size red Dodge Durango pickup tooling between the two towns.
One of his outside interests was volunteering for the sheriff’s auxiliary for some 22 years, often serving as a storm spotter and staying up all night watching for signs of a twister. He can be found at the Sandwich Fair every day of its run and showed me the advance pin for the 2009 fair already adorning his cap. He gets around the easiest in a motorized cart which you will find him guiding through the crowds at the annual fair.
Pretty good for a man who never grew taller than four-foot-ten and never let his size deter him from experiencing a full life – now at 93 and counting. I really enjoyed my chat with Bill and will definitely look him up at the fair in September.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115