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
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 Jims Automotive shop in Somonauk and the
guys in the shop at the Sandwich fairgrounds.
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 doesnt
plan to slow down either.
I met him one morning
at Jims where his family used to have their workshop next
to the house they formerly owned. If its 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 Bills 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 Jims 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
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.
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 sheriffs 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.
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.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115