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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column every other Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website 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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Recalling a Childhood on Annie Glidden Road

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................September 30, 2014

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “DeKalb County Life” column will appear every other Tuesday.

Ellen Oderkirk Froelich turns 84 years old next week, is sharp as a tack, and spent some time reminiscing with me on the weekend of her 65th DeKalb High School class reunion recently.

She and her husband, Dean, had driven here from their Ohio home and were given a tour through her childhood home on the NIU campus by Vice President of Operations Bill Nicklas and his staff. It was a sentimental journey back to the "old home place," where she and her two sisters were raised by Burt and Allene Odekirk beginning in the 1930s during the Great Depression era.

She remained in that home (now known as 253 North Annie Glidden Road) until marrying her sweetheart Dean in 1950, when they moved into the nearby carriage house that had once served as a barn for Annie Glidden.

Ellen was born Oct. 5, 1931, in Oak Park when her folks were living in LaGrange. Soon after that they bought Annie Glidden's farm houseand about six acres in DeKalb, where Mr. Odekirk had been hired to help purchase and manage the farms of the Babson Brothers. He set up an office in the corner of the carriage house, which was heated by a wood stove at that time. He conducted the Babson's business there for several years before moving to a downtown DeKalb location.

.As a child, Ellen remembers every foot of that property and buildings, even an old barn that sat out

Dean and Ellen Oderkirk Froelich stand in front of the carriage house, next to the Barsema Alumni & Visitors Center on Annie Glidden Road, where they lived as newlyweds in the early 1950s. (Schrader photo)

Dean and Ellen Oderkirk Froelich returned to DeKalbfor a visit recently, and relived their newlywed years together when they lived in Annie Glidden’s carriage house after Ellen had spent her childhood in the adjacent farm home. Here they sit on the playhouse porch where Dean proposed to Ellen 64 years ago. The playhouse is now back at the Ellwood Mansion and Museum grounds in DeKalb. (Photo courtesy of Roger Keys)

back with a basement that had a ramp up to ground level for the horses. It was torn down when she was quite young. Then there were the pine trees at the back of the property from which her family selected their Christmas tree each year to place in the front window of the living room. The three girls’ stockings were hung on the fireplace mantle and usually held fruit, nuts, some hard candy and maybe a doll for each of them. The family’s andirons still remain with the fireplace today, she noticed.

Then she told about the animals they raised, including sheep, goats and a pig named Sausage, that were kept in the big fenced yard that ran around the property.

One time while their parents were away, the girls brought their black and white pony named Billy into the house and up the stairs to their front bedroom. They had quite the time getting that pony to walk back down the stairs. But they did it with no damage to rug or walls, just before their mother returned.

She also mentioned that their father bought a Jersey milk cow with the intention of teaching his daughters how to milk, just in case they married a farmer, I suspect. Ellen said the finest horse she ever owned was Mister Copper King that came to them from the Ellwood family. After graduation she attended Northern for two years. But since her father had just died, the family needed to regroup, and she had to go to work.

Soon after, her suitor Dean (an NIU Huskies lineman and basketball player) proposed to her. They were married nine days before he went off to war in Korea.

The proposal was steeped in local history. They were sitting on the little porch of the playhouse (now back at the Ellwood Mansion where it had been originally) and he asked for her hand in marriage. She said yes.

The family converted the carriage house into an apartment for the newlyweds. The first floor was an open living area with a small kitchen, which remains today, and a large bedroom upstairs plus a closet and small bathroom with shower. That bedroom is where they placed the cribs for their first two sons – Kevin and Keith. Dean remembers the French doors on the back (west side) of the apartment opened out onto a cement patio that had an overhead trellis with vines growing over it. The doors are still there, but the exit is boarded up for now.

One final question for her: How did it feel returning to her childhood home? “A real joy to visit the old house and feel its warmth. It has such good bones,” she added.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115