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Barry Schrader


I have been writing a column for the Chronicle most of the time since December 2007, with two breaks, one in 2016 and the other in 2017 when my wife Kay suffered a stroke. They are all archived here.


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

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Harking back to first grade

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist....................................Aug 23, 2019

At my age one looks back in time more than forward and an email from a childhood friend this week got me searching for my first grade photo. His sarcastic comment was that when in grade school I looked a lot like Alfred E. Neuman, who was mentioned in my column last week. I didn’t take his jab seriously until I found my official school photo from 1946 when I was a first grader at Somonauk Grade School.

How I ever went to Somonauk while living on a farm near Waterman is a story in itself. My mother had stayed home from teaching for five years to take care of me. Then-Somonauk Superintendent Lewis Flinn desperately needed a first grade teacher that fall and convinced my mother to teach down there. She had one condition, that she be allowed to bring this five-year-old with her to school. But there was no kindergarten so she was allowed to put me in her class.

Alfred E. Neuman, mascot of Mad magazine, had unkempt hair, protruding ears and freckles. If you look at my photo with this column you will see scraggly unkempt hair, freckles and protruding ears. The bib overalls were standard for farm kids to wear. My dad was a tenant on a Babson farm between Waterman and Hinckley, across the road from Mick and Vivian Whisler, just down the road from Jiggs and Mary Nehring.

But getting back to first grade, I only remember a few things about that year: I had my first crush on two girls in my class –Roberta Dowd and Karol Orstedt. Secondly, I had my first ever fight on the playground after school. The school custodian Emil Haas broke it up and we were sent to Flinn’s office. His secretary, Mary Lou Menk (later Grandgeorge), called my mother and I got the “what for” all the way back home.

Little Barry Schrader in his first grade school photo
Emil and Emma Haas in front of their Somonauk home about 1946. Emil was the school custodian who was so helpful to teachers and beloved in the community. (Provided photo)

My mother appreciated all the help Emil provided her and other teachers and they became friends, staying in touch for years after she left Somonauk. Emil was a German immigrant who came to this country in 1912 at age 32 with his wife Emma, farming and then later taking the school janitor’s job. How do I know all this? Well, I talked to his granddaughter Margaret (Haas) Hardekopf the other day. She still lives in Somonauk.

One thing more I recall from those golden, olden school days: During lunch hour we played marbles and I won some nice catseyes and boulders. When we played “keepsies” you got to keep the other players’ marbles you knocked out of the ring.

If I can find any still in our basement I may bring them to the Step Back In Time collectibles show at Oak Crest this Saturday. I will be there with my table of treasures from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. as well as giving a half-hour program at 1:30 p.m. on the history of small town weeklies in our county.
But the neatest thing for me will be to see a replica of the Big Boy Steam Engine 4014 that chugged through the county recently. JR Faivre agreed to let us display his working model O-gauge engine with coal tender and passenger cars, which will fill two six-foot tables.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115