Sitting outside at the Northern Illinois Steam Show & Threshing Bee over the weekend, I began my column longhand as the noon toot of all the steam engines let loose, which gives one a chill up the spine.
It is always a stroll back in time to go out there and reminisce among the sights, sounds and smells of a bygone era. I met a man named John Ross from Hebron, Ind., who has been at the show for 38 years now. His father and uncle used to run the sawmill that the show operators now own.
Ross learned to operate the equipment when he was a boy at home in Indiana, which reminds me of “The Waltons” TV series where John Walton ran a sawmill with the help of his sons. Anyway, Ross’ father, Harry, and uncle, Marshall, owned the mill from 1917 until 1962. Fortunately it didn’t end up in the scrapheap and is now an integral part of the show.
I always run into people I have not seen for decades at the Steam Power Club’s show, but here’s something even more surprising that occurred 2,000 miles away at Yosemite National Park on our annual June pilgrimage to California. There are now 4 million visitors to Yosemite each year, so what are the chances?
We checked into a cabin at Curry Village on the valley floor. I wanted to ask the manager at the front desk about a change in our reservation, and when she came out of her office, she said “DeKalb, Illinois?” I knew it had something to do with the DeKalb Ag winged ear logo cap I was wearing, but she had more to say.
It seems she lived in St. Charles earlier in her life and her cousin, Luke Howieson, is with the DeKalb Fire Department. Her brother is also a firefighter, but he is now in Rockford. So Sarah Butler is now a friend, and I plan to look her up every summer we go there. She has worked at Yosemite seven years and in the winter transfers to the Ahwanee Hotel because the cabins are left dormant in the cold weather.
Another coincidence happened there more than 20 years ago when we stopped at the Ahwanee for lunch. At the front desk was Jim Nash, who had been our son Darrin’s art teacher in middle school. And to stretch this further, the head of public relations at Yosemite Park & Curry Company 30 years ago was a DeKalb native named Fred Dickey, who had also been a journalism major at Northern Illinois University and is a lifelong friend in the newspaper business out west. He now writes for the Los Angeles Times.
I want to add comments from two readers who proved I did not look hard enough for the number of Genoas in the country for my column two weeks ago. Genoa attorney Jim O’Grady once researched the same topic during the city’s 150th anniversary and found no less than 15 in the following states: Colorado, North Dakota, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Texas (but absorbed by Houston), Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Arkansas. He even has the maps to prove it.
Former Genoa resident and current San Franciscan Bob Skinner had located six of those mentioned above and even added that there is an interesting fish hatchery at the one in Wisconsin. I am always pleased with feedback, even when it is correcting me or adding information. Now maybe someone will start a search overseas to see how many more there are.
• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL. 60115. His column now appears every other Tuesday on this page.