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The Student News Site of Elgin Community College


The Student News Site of Elgin Community College


The Student News Site of Elgin Community College


Coach Bill Angelo
ECC Baseball Coach Nears 30th Season

Bill Angelo is entering his 27th season as ECC’s baseball head coach. He has had nearly 820 wins since...

Coach Bill Angelo
ECC Baseball Coach Nears 30th Season

Bill Angelo is entering his 27th season as ECC’s baseball head coach. He has had nearly 820 wins since...

A Community of Giving: Celebrating the History of Elgin

On Thursday, November 30, a woman walked into the Elgin Room of the Gail Borden Library after finishing her holiday shopping in downtown Elgin. She is dressed in the fashion typical of 1950s America, and her bag is full of what are now pieces of history. Meet Myrtle, a character played by historian Linda Rock in order to tell the history of the holidays in Elgin.

Over 60 people attended the “Holidays in Elgin” event hosted by Rock on November 30 in the Gail Borden Library. She showcased items from her collection of artifacts native to Elgin, ranging from watches made by the Elgin National Watch Company to a scarf fashioned from a fox pelt.

Myrtle, a shopper in Elgin in the 1950s and the character played by Rock, spoke about each of these items as if they were gifts for her friends and family. These items are artifacts from the personal collection of Rock and her husband, Jeff White. The two have been collecting artifacts from Elgin since they moved here in the 80s. 

“My husband and I collect Elgin memorabilia, and our private collection is quite formidable,” Rock said. “My husband is probably the bigger collector than I, but we collect anything Elgin-related.”

Rock began teaching at Elgin Academy in 1986 and was placed on the board of the Elgin History Museum as a representative of the school. To this day, she serves as a volunteer researcher and presenter for the museum, sharing many programs like the “Holidays in Elgin” event. 

The goal of collecting all these artifacts, Rock says, is to share with other people and to connect back to the community.

“[My husband and I] have a pretty good sized Victorian home, just the two of us, filled with artifacts of Elgin,” Rock said. “Now, we have no children and no family from Elgin, so why are we doing this? Well, we share it.”

Along with the several artifacts displayed at the event, Rock presented photos from the Elgin Courier News dating all the way back to the 1930s. Pictures depicted holiday traditions in Elgin, including the arrival of Santa Claus on various vehicles such as helicopters and fire trucks.

Additionally, the photos give a peek into what downtown Elgin used to look like during the holiday season. According to Rock, Elgin was a major shopping district from the 1950s-60s, attracting many people in the area during the holidays.

At the end of the “Holidays in Elgin” event, people began sharing their own experiences with the history of Elgin. Andrea Paul, an attendee at the event, recalls the nostalgia associated with shopping in downtown Elgin.

“In the 70s, downtown Elgin was so magical during the holidays,” Paul said. “As kids, we were awestruck by the beauty of it all. We were from Bartlett, but we came to Elgin for shopping. I can close my eyes and still picture it.”

Manager of Public Programs and Meeting Room Services at the Gail Borden Library Sadia Ahmed chose the “Holidays in Elgin” program not only to prepare for the upcoming holiday season but also due to the popularity of the historical programs at the library.

“From feedback from patrons, we’ve gotten a lot of interest in historical programs,” Ahmed said. “People really appreciate them and they feel as if they have learned something.”

The Gail Borden Library is hosting several events for the holiday season. Some programs that have already been celebrated include a Hanukkah event on Dec. 3 and a Posada event on Dec. 9. 

Ahmed recognizes that many of the events at the library are geared toward families and children. These events often teach about different cultures and communities.

“I feel that these programs are great for families and kids because this is the age where you learn that people are from different cultures and that they celebrate different holidays,” Ahmed said. “I think it’s more important, not just because it’s a diverse community, but also with everything going on in the world right now.”

The “Holidays in Elgin” event focused mostly on the celebration of Christmas. Rock recognizes how the community has changed since then.

“In the 50s, the Christian story of Jesus’ birth was taught in public schools,” Rock said. “There was very little consideration of Hanukkah or of other religious groups who also celebrate in a similar time.”

However, Rock has a hopeful outlook to the future of the Elgin community.

“In the last 10, maybe 15 years, [Elgin] has switched into a more artistic community which is very, very cool,” Rock said. “As I get older, maybe I’m feeling more removed from that, but I’m O.K. with that. If Elgin wants to grow and to be vibrant, you’ve got to make sure that young people have an interest in their community, which goes back to the history, too. It all comes together.”

One thing that hasn’t changed, according to Rock, is the spirit of generosity and giving in Elgin, especially during the holiday season.

“When I think about our generous community or concern for the community, I think of Hanover Landing,” Rock said. “It’s a new facility that was just built to provide homes for those who need it. The crisis center for women who are abused, that’s been around since the 70s. Our concern for the needs of the community, I think, has stayed the same even if those needs have changed.”

During her presentation, Rock displayed pictures of students preparing for the holidays by participating in charities and donation drives. Attendees later shared stories about delivering Christmas trees to those who couldn’t afford to purchase them.

Rock stresses how it’s important to preserve history, especially the stories of the everyday people in the community.

“We can learn that it’s good to celebrate each other,” Rock said.  “[The holidays] are a time of being generous. We learn that even though we have a lot of differences as cultures, we are still very much alike.”


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