Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear on the first Tuesday of
It isn't often that a person experiences the lowest, then
highest point in their life in the span of only 15 months. I'm
not talking about career success, financial gain or fame, just
plain old psychological ups and downs.
This saga began in January 2012 when I got the bright idea
that DeKalb County children needed a history lesson since they
weren't getting taught much, if anything, about their local heritage
in school. Riding high on the memory of a successful "museum
on wheels" project I helped initiate 25 years ago in far-off
Livermore, Calif., I tried to sell the idea to local clubs, nonprofits
and school districts (including Kish College trustees) that what
this county needed was a "Historymobile" to share our
local heritage with every elementary school in the county.
It took me five disheartening months of seeking financing
($20,000) and sponsorship (buying a vehicle) to find out the
hard way no one wanted to be a part of this overly ambitious
Standing with Livermore Mayor John Marchand at the ceremony
dedicating a new generation Historymobile over Memorial Day weekend
is columnist Barry Schrader. The new vehicle with painted mural on side by Vera Lowdermilk.
But I must interject the names of at least seven people
who did believe and signed on to support it - the late Al Golden,
Ging Smith, Tom Weber, Averil Schreiber, Bill Braksick, Jim Gerlick
and even DeKalb School District 428 Superintendent Jim Briscoe.
Others weren't as enthusiastic. Even the DeKalb County
Historical-Genealogical Society board members issued a "vote
of no confidence" to my idea.
So I went down in ignominious defeat and wallowed in despair
for a while, but somehow found new energy to help revive a troubled
Ney Grange chapter in the north county, join with 12 other authors
to finish the new county history book, and take part in a pioneer
log cabin project.
Fast forward to this May: I got a phone call from Livermore
inviting me to the dedication of a second generation Historymobile,
which had been acquired and redesigned into another museum on
wheels like the project I had initiated once before, the first
generation RV-bus finally conking out after 15 years of traveling
among schools out there.
They sent me photos of their new-and-improved 37-foot RV-turned-museum.
And they told me my co-founder and I would be immortalized inside
with photos and a plaque telling all the kids visiting this rolling
history center about its founders.
So I took a redeye flight out there on Memorial Day weekend
to bask in the glory of the occasion and recharge my batteries.
It was a glorious reunion and a new "high" for an old
activist who doesn't relish retiring in defeat.
Flying back to Illinois, I toyed with the idea that there
might just be a spark of interest I could rekindle to pursue
this "pipe dream," as one detractor called it, one
more time. So I met with NIU transportation department head Bill
Finucane to see if they could spare an old Huskies bus to convert
into a mobile history lesson. He did express interest, but then
retired at the end of June. So much for that angle.
So I went back to helping with the 1835 Miller-Ellwood
log cabin and pioneer garden along with several other history
buffs and gardening enthusiasts. Once you see that restored log
cabin standing out there in the wilds near the Russell Woods
Forest Preserve, it will take you back to "Little House
on the Prairie," and who can resist helping that become