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Local

Sycamore’s industrial roots focus of book, ‘Why Sycamore Works: An Oral History’

Robert A. Glover, author of "Why Sycamore Works: An Oral History," asks questions to a panel at a book release event Wednesday in Sycamore. The panel included some Sycamore business leaders who contributed recollections to Glover's book.
Robert A. Glover, author of "Why Sycamore Works: An Oral History," asks questions to a panel at a book release event Wednesday in Sycamore. The panel included some Sycamore business leaders who contributed recollections to Glover's book.

SYCAMORE – If there’s one place where people work together to get things done, it’s Sycamore for Dean Copple. 

Copple worked for Anaconda Wire and Cable in the 1940s and then for DuPlex Products Inc. in the 1950s. When he made the transition to DuPlex, he was told by one person the company would go bankrupt in a matter of months. But the National Bank and Trust gave the company the resources it needed to grow. 

“National Bank and Trust was the salvation of DuPlex in those days,” he said. 

Copple, along with Robert Boey and Clint Gittleson, came together Wednesday at the DeKalb County Community Foundation in Sycamore to share their stories about the growth of manufacturing businesses in the city from the 1950s and 1980s. Boey led the engineering department with Anaconda Wire and Cable Co. and Gittleson worked for the same company until he became plant manager for Ideal Industries. 

All three men were featured in an oral history of the era written by Robert Glover, volunteer archivist for the Sycamore History Museum, that was published this year. 

The book, “Why Sycamore Works: An Oral History,” was written to tie into an exhibit the museum previously featured on manufacturing in Sycamore.

Glover said when researching the book, most of the documents he found were from company histories published by companies themselves.

“The idea was to get an understanding of their experiences, which couldn’t be found in the artifacts,” he said. 

Other business leaders featured in the book include Harold Engh Jr., who worked for what was then Turner Corp., Bob Davis and William Swedberg. Swedberg has started Swedberg & Associates, Inc. in the 1960s.

While the book contains edited transcripts, the full transcripts of the interviews are available for future historical research. Glover hopes the book is used to generate more stories and histories of Sycamore manufacturing. 

From the 1960s through the 1970s was an amazing time for Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy. In those days people could change jobs eight or nine times and never miss a paycheck because the amount of manufacturing during the period, he said. 

“Everybody had work,” Mundy said. “Those that didn’t work couldn’t. It was as simple as that.” 

While Sycamore has lost some of that industrial prominence in recent years, Mundy said it’s still in a great place to attract industry today. The challenge lies in equipping the young workforce today with the skills it needs to succeed, he said.

Gittleson said he found it exciting to watch the population in Sycamore grow during the 1950s. He volunteered for the fire department and was in a “real good position” to see the changes in the community. 

“It was just kind of exciting to see how the town did come together and build all these mills,” he said.  

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