Please send in stories and pictures for this section. Currently I have information from the 1985 version of the book:
Jack Cox was born at home in
Danville, Illinois, February 11, 1934,
married Donna Hobick March 7,
1953, and lived on Kickapoo Road for
fifteen years before moving to
Oakwood in April 1973.
Donna was born in Danville on
April 29, 1934. She attended Central
Grade School for six years, Fithian
Grade School, and Oakwood High
School. She worked for Illinois Bell
1 Telephone for forty years.
Jack attended Diamond Grade
School and Oakwood High School.
He worked at Koemer Electric Motor
Shop eighteen years before going
into business for himself. He served
in the Navy from 1952 to 1954.
Their children are Kathy (Cox)
Fourez, Rodney Cox, and Joni (Cox)
Tackett. Their grandchildren are
Top – Joni, Rod, Kathy
Bottom – Donna & Jack Cox
Ryan Cox, Rachel Cox, Lindsey Fourez, and Hailey Tackett.
Gertrude Anderson was born May 14,
1889, in Jamesburg, Illinois, and on the
same day in Worden, Illinois, Vane Berry
was born. Later on June 16, 1913, they
The fourth child born to them was Ruth
Ellen Berry on December 16, 1921, in
Worden. Ruth later married Leroy Cox on
September 27, 1943, at Ziegler, Illinois. She
was a clerk in the Oakwood Post Office for
Leroy was born February 28, 1922, in
Clifford, Illinois, and served three years in
the Army during World War II. He was in
the European Theatre, going to Europe two
days after D-Day. He was in the Battle of
the Bulge, and was on his way to the Pacific
Theatre when the war ended. He worked
for Frontenac Coal Company in Hillery
where he was killed on November 7, 1967.
Leroy and Ruth had three children,
Brenda Gayle, born September 18, 1946, in
Herrin, Illinois, Illinois, Joyce Ellen, born
April 18, 1951, in Christopher, Illinois, and
David Lee, born January 12, 1963, in
Cox Family. Top: Brenda Gayle & Joyce Ellen
Middle: Leroy Cox & Ruth Ellen (Berry) Cox
Bottom: David Lee Cox
Brenda married Eddie Joe Anderson,
(bom December 18, 1943) on September 20,
- They have three sons: Richard
Bradley, born September 8, 1964, a
graduate of Regis College in Denver,
Colorado, in June 1991, and employed as an
insurance salesman in Washington, N.C.,
Brian Edward, born April 8, 1971,
graduated from Eastern Illinois University
in June 1993, and is employed as a
salesman for Hyster in Chicago, Illinois, and
Mitchell Lee, bom August 9, 1973, a junior
at East Carolina College in Greenville, N.C.
Ed worked with Little League Baseball,
Youth Football, and High School Football for
20 years in Oakwood. Ed and Brenda lived
in Glenburn until transferred with Hyster
Company to Corporate Offices in Greenville,
N.C. and later moved to Washington, N.C.
Joyce attended Eastern Illinois
University before being graduated from
Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois. She
married Dan Farmer, December 30,1970, in
Oakwood. They have three sons; Joseph
Daniel, bom July 28, 1972, in Lake Forest,
Illinois, who is serving in the U.S. Army
with the 10th Mountain Division. He has
seen active duty in Somalia and Haiti.
Timothy Ryan, born November 5, 1973 in
Danville is a junior at Western Illinois
College at Macomb, Illinois. Matthew Scot,
bom August 15, 1975, in Butler, Alabama, is
employed at Ateco Automotive in
Waukegan, Illinois. Joyce later married Bill
Lawson, March 20, 1993, and presently lives
in Vernon Hills, Illinois.
David graduated from Eastern Illinois
University and is employed as a Graphic
Artist with the Water Survey Department at
the University of Illinois. He lives on
Mrs. Joyce Lawson & Sons.
Joe, Tim & Matt Farmer.
Mr. & Mrs. Ed Anderson and sons Rick, Brian, &
Harrison Street in Oakwood.
Ruth has lived in Oakwood for forty years, the last 38 on Penz Drive. ‘
i i i
The house at 304 West Collett Street in
Oakwood was built by John Gunn Craig about 1918.
The house was built on the north side of West
Collett Street. It was a five room, two bedroom
house, with a living room, dining room, kitchen, and
John Gunn Craig and Hettie Davis Craig were
married December 24, 1879. They moved into the
house with their daughter, Emily, from a location
northwest of Newtown to retire.
Emily Craig married Ira E. Ingalsbe, April 22,
1922, moving out of this home for the first time.
Emily lived in this house four times during her
lifetime and owned it at the time of her death
February 8, 1986.
Emily and Ira had one son, Vern C. Ingalsbe,
born Februaiy 22, 1926. He graduated from the University
of Illinois in June 1950 after spending two years in the Navy
from June 1944 to 1946.
He married Kathryn Redman July 21, 1951, at the
Oakwood Methodist Church.
Emily Craig Ingalsbe Boyle
Hettie & John Craig Parents of
Emily Craig Ingalsbe Boyle
Steve and Linda Cravens moved to Oakwood in 1988 and live at 109 Haynes Street. Steve was
born April 29,1954, Linda on January 16,1952, and both attended school in Danville.
They were married December 30, 1979, and have three children: Steve II was bom on October
14, 1973, Kerry on September 22, 1980, and Candice on Januaiy 8, 1982. Steve works as a semidriver.
Kerry and Candice attended Oakwood Grade and are presently in Newtown Middle School.
The name has been in and around the community of Oakwood for over a century.
George Crawford, a farmer from the Catlin-Fairmount area, operated a threshing service south
of the Rocky Ford River area. The ring, as. it was called, or circle of operation expanded north of the
river to south of the small community of Oakwood before the turn of the century. Because of the
excellent transportation opportunity offered by the railroads, the threshing service moved to
The area in and around Oakwood was served by three grain elevators on three rail lines, the
New York Central, Chicago and Eastern Illinois, and the Illinois Terminal Railway. The three
elevators were at Oakwood, Bronson and Brothers’ Station.
The New York Central, now Conrail, was known as the I. B. & W., Indianapolis, Bloomington,
and Western, later the Peoria & Eastern, then the Big Four Division of New York Central.
Following the NYCRR bankruptcy in 1968, it became Penn-Central and in 1976, as Conrail .
Passenger service was curtailed in the mid-fifties. Daily passenger service on the Illinois Terminal
Line or electric interurban between Danville, Champaign, Decatur, Springfield, Peoria, and St.
Louis ended in the mid-fifties.
The ITC in its hey-day boasted of twelve daily passenger trains east and west through Oakwood.
Freight service to and through Oakwood came from all these lines and by the time of Oakwood’s
Incorporation the grain and coal operation was quite good.
George Crawford along with his wife Nancy moved their home and operations to Oakwood just
prior to the turn of the century. They built a home at the northeast corner of what is now Harrison
and Collett in Oakwood. This first home was later razed and the present structure was built and
was considered home until their deaths. Both are buried in Oakwood Cemeteiy.
They have five children, all of which moved from the area except Lewis M. Crawford, who
continued in the threshing operation and grain service. Part-owners in the Oakwood and Bronson
Elevators, which provided excellent grain service to area farmers and an opportunity to raise a
family of six.
With the coming of the machine age, farmers began purchasing personal harvesting equipment
and the threshing ring ceased to exist.
L. M. sold his interest in the elevators and a steam engine. A 1904 Nichols and Sheppard gas
powered tractor stood for years in the orchard behind his home he built at the corner of Green and
Harrison Street. Both antique tractors were disposed of in the early forties during World War II for
scrap iron for the war effort. Lewis finished his working years as a coal miner and both he and his
wife, Lena Francis (Oakley) Crawford are buried in the Oakwood Cemeteiy.
Their five children grew up and all moved elsewhere except George A. Crawford. George was
fascinated by the railroad and to fulfill his dream of operating a locomotive, hired out as a
locomotive fireman and was promoted to the position of Engineer in 1920 at the ripe old age of
nineteen. He retired from the railroad after forty-eight years of service, however, he continued to
reside in Oakwood. George owned the property now occupied by the State Bank of Oakwood, and
lived there until his death in 1974. He is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery.
Along with his wife Dollie (Ellis) Crawford Bolser, who still resides in Oakwood, he raised six
children, Harold, Ross, Bobby, George, Raymond, and Lena Mae.
Harold, Ross, and Lena Mae are deceased. The two boys are buried in Danville Sunset
Cemetery and Lena Mae (Bales) Davis in Oakwood Cemeteiy.
George was followed on the railroad by three of his sons, Ross, Bobby, and Raymond, all became
locomotive engineers. In 1968 the Crawfords were honored by the Brotherhood of Locomotive
Engineers, a rail labor organization, with all the distinction of having the most members on an
immediate family all operating locomotives for railroads in both the United States and Canada. All
five of the Crawford boys served their country during World War II and the Korean War. Harold
and Bobby in the Army, Ross in the Navy, and Raymond and George in the Marines. The Crawford
family all attended Oakwood and Missionfield Grade Schools, Oakwood Township High School, and
the Oakwood Methodist Church.
After four generations, before Oakwood was incorporated, with the exception of Dollie
(Crawford) Bolser the remining Crawfords have moved elsewhere. Bobby is in Indianapolis, George
in Ogden, Raymond in Fithian, but all consider Oakwood as home.
This account is of the George Crawford immediate and descendant family. The other Crawford
family in Oakwood were related to Robert and Ann Crawford. Robert was a cousin of Lewis
Isaac G. Crawford was born January 4,
1851, the son of Robert and Elizabeth
Diadem Crawford. Isaac married Alice
Bensigner October 25, 1879. They had
three sons while living in Danville: Robert
W. was born September 22, 1878; James
Howard in 1881 and died in 1972, and
Harry, who died when he was about two
years old along with his mother from
Robert W. married Ona Weaver and had
six children. Robert worked as coal miner,
operated a mine, and was a shovel operator.
Harold was born July 30, 1903, and
married Frances Puzey. He worked at the
Crawford Coal Mine a short time and then
farmed near Catlin. They had two sons,
Rodney and Kerry, who both are farmers
and live in the Catlin area. Frances passed
away and later Harold married Edith.
Lowell was born August 28, 1906 and
married Florence Esworthy. They had no
children. Florence was a nurse and worked
for many years. Lowell started working at
the Palmer Bank in Danville and eventually
was elected to the presidency and later as
Seated Left to Right: Julia ?, Hannah France, Isaac
Crawford, Robert W. Crawford.Standing L to R: Ana
Crawford, Meredith Jenkins, Harold Jenkins,
Florence Crawford, Lowell Crawford, Mary
Crawford, Kenneth Crawford, Mindy Crawford.
Kenneth was born December 8, 1908,
and married Mary Meade. They have one
son, Wayne, who is a professor at Western
Illinois University at Macomb, Illinois.
Kenneth was in the trucking business in
Arlyn was bom February 20, 1913, and
married Margaret Jordan. They live in
Danville and he is employed by Food
Machinery Company in Hoopeston.
Deloris was born March 2, 1916, and
married Earl Hart who was employed by the
Bordon Milk Company. They have three
children, Anita, Robert, and Beth.
Meredith was bom September 14, 1919,
and married Harold Jenkins of Fairmount.
Delores (Hart), Meredith Jenkins, Ona Crawford
They have two children and were employed at Jamaica High School.
Robert & Howard Crawford Florence Esworthy & husband Lowell
Left to Right: Robert W. Crawford, Isaac Crawford,
Delores Hart holding Anita Hart.
CRAWFORD FAMILY HISTORY
By Wayne Crawford
The Crawford family history as presented here is focused along two strands of development: one
is the genealogy that led to me, the Crawford-Weaver-Smith-Meade connections, and the second is
reflective of my life in Oakwood Where the Crawfords originated and how they arrived in Vermilion
County, Illinois is my first focus. Back in the 13th century during the reign of William the Lion, the
first Barony of Crawford was created in Lanarkshire, Scotland. The first Earl of Crawford was
named in 1398. Crawfords began coming to America in pre-revolutionary days, and by the early
1800s, had traveled, primarily through Ohio and Indiana, to Vermilion County, Illinois.
Colonel William Crawford was born in 1722 in Virginia. He was a friend of George Washington
and a man who served in the Revolutionary War. He died in Ohio in 1782 when he was burned at
the stake by Indians he had sent to displace. The literature that I have read suggests that he is the
father of Robert. There are lots of Roberts and I’m not certain that this one is his, but it seems
likely. His son, then, this Robert that I mention, married Elizabeth Diadem of Kentucky and they
lived in Ohio. He is my great, great, grandfather. Their son, Robert R., moved to Covington,
Indiana near Benson Chapel as a young man and married Mary Louise Hair on March 31, 1833.
Mary Louise died November 25, 1880. Robert R. died on February 4, 1884 near Oakwood and is
buried in France’s Meadow near Oakwood.
Robert and Mary had 14 children. One son, Isaac G., was born on January 4, 1851. He worked
for a time for Western Brick, at one time the largest producer of bricks in the world. He also worked
as a miner. Isaac married Alice Bensinger and they had three sons: Robert William (1878-1946) and
James Howard (1881-1972), and Harry who died at age two of typhoid. Robert W. Crawford was my
grandfather and he died on March 22, several months before I was bom, just as my father died a
few months before my son was born. Uncle Howard married Grace Isenhower. When my
grandfather was age nine, Alice Crawford, his mother, died and his father, Isaac, unable to provide
adequately, farmed him out to Jack Goodwine of Potomac. Robert W. had to work on the farm to
pay his keep, but he was always grateful to Goodwine. When Goodwine went to town to buy clothes
and other items for his sons, he always bought grandfather the same items.
As adults, both Uncle Howard and my grandfather worked in coal mines. At one time, they
owned one together, the Oakwood-Crawford Mine near Oakwood. On one occasion when
grandfather and Uncle Howard were working, they went down in the mine to light the shots. After
they got out, they heard the explosives go off-all but one. It was Uncle Howard’s. He apparently
couldn’t remember if he had lit all of his. They waited what seemed to be long enough and
concluded that Uncle Howard had not lit his. Grandfather no more than reentered the mine than
the explosion occurred. On his 1942 Selective Service Registration Card, he is listed as being 5’6″,
weighing 160 pounds, having blue eyes and “left eye out.” He lost his left eye in the mine explosion.
Grandfather also had been afflicted with another problem. During the flu epidemic of 1918,
Grandfather was afflicted and his heart became enlarged. He was told not to work but he went to
work for the Frontenac Coal Company anyway intermittently. However, his health remained poor,
and in 1930, he underwent surgery to remove fluid from his heart. He never fully recovered from
this procedure. He married Ona Weaver.
Michael Weaver was bom in Hagerstown, Maryland, on August 18, 1778, of Scotch parents. He
is my great, great, great, grandfather. He married Maria Spessard and they moved, first to
Kentucky to be near her sister, then to Brown County, Ohio, and in 1828 to Vermilion County, IL.
Michael and Maria are buried in Weaver Cemetery near Indianola in ground donated by them in
- He died on Nov. 17,1875 and she on Aug. 4,1870. They had eleven children.
One of their sons, Elijah Weaver, born June 15, 1807, married Elizabeth Busey on April 16,
- The Buseys were a prominent Urbana family. One of their sons, Vanison Weaver, a farmer
in the Fail-mount, IL. area married Cyrena Shaffer, who was bom on Jan. 14, 1852 near Bismarck,
IL. They were married on Sept. 25, 1872 and had 6 children. Among these were Ona, Otaie, and
Robert W. Crawford married Ona Weaver on May 10, 1902. They had six children. Robert and
Ona’s children included Hezzy (H.E.), who married Francis Pusey and had two sons, Rod and Kerry
of Catlin, Lowell (who married Florence Esworthy) of Danville, Arlyn (who married Margaret Jordon
and lived in Danville, Delores (who married Earl Hart of Oakwood and has three children, Anita
Wright and Beth Gutterridge of Oakwood and Bob Hart of Covington) and Meredith (who married
Harold Jenkins of Fairmount and has two children, Harold “Bud”, and Karen Okeson of Venice, Fla.)
The other son was my father, Kenneth Eugene Crawford, who operated a trucking business in
Oakwood for fifty years, K.E. Crawford Trucking. Dad was bom December 7,1908.
Because of his father’s ill health and large family, my father started working as a soda jerk in
Longstreth’s Blue Room Cafe while he was in high school, the Blue Room being a site for teens to
gather and dance on weekends or after high school games. Run by Eva Fahey when I attended high
school in the early sixties, the Blue Room was no longer open late on weekends but served as a bus
stop and after school gathering place with its fountain soda pop, especially “cherry cokes,” and its
juke box and pinball machines. Ice cream was served with a cherry on top.
At 16, my father took his truck to Kankakee and spent the summer hauling rock and living in a
makeshift tent. He did this to help support his family. Despite being injured and imprisoned at
Stalag 4-G at Oshatz during WWII, my father described this summer to me as the loneliest summer
of his life. He married Mary Meade.
My great, great, grandfather, Nathaniel Meade was born June 6, 1800 in Green County, New
York. He visited Vermilion County in 1826 and moved his family here in 1835. He bought a farm
on the Salt Fork, where afterwards Conkeytown was located. His wife, Annar, died in 1854. They
raised four sons, and three daughters. Nathaniel died on September 3,1889 in Oakwood.
One of Nathaniel and Annar’s sons, William, bom in 1830, married Margaret Tanner, and after
her death, Martha Norris Knox. From this first marriage came three sons, Delbert, Robert Perry,
and Ervin. Delbert was born on October 19,1872.
“Del” was a rural mail carrier in Oakwood. He began carrying mail on October 1, 1903 on rural
route one. According to a Commercial News story on his retirement, Del Meade logged over 250,000
miles, a distance equivalent to going around the world ten times, and delivered approximately
3,600,000 letters. He averaged three absentee days per year and was noted for getting the mail
delivered regardless of the weather. In the early days, he delivered mail by horse and buggy. He
used one mare for ten years and the horse was so well-trained that it was not necessary for him to
touch the reins from the time he left the Oakwood Post Office until he returned home. The old horse
knew “his stuff’ so well that he would stop at every mail box and would not start again until he
heard the click of the lid when it was dropped after the mail had been deposited. In 1915, he began
traveling his route by car. After excluding $57.79 for taxes already paid, and $365.54 for the
automobile expenses allowed for carrying mail, his total income for the 1931 calendar year, his 28th
year in that position, was $1,960.21. Delbert Meade married Ida Ellen Smith.
In 1785 in Virginia, Governor Patrick Henry charged 50 lbs. and signed a marriage certificate
uniting Berryman Smith, son of John Smith who had fought in the Revolutionary War, and
Elizabeth Martin. They had a son, Rhodes Smith. Rhodes Smith married Christianna Conner in
1825, and they had a son, John W. Smith, born October 9,1838. Rhodes and Christianna had seven
boys and two girls. John W. was their youngest. In 1849, they brought their family to Vermilion
County. John W. Smith married Nancy M. Wright on September 1, 1870 and they had three
daughters, Ida Ellen, Mattie, and Lula.
Ida Ellen Smith, the daughter of John W. and Nancy Smith, married Delbert Meade. Their
children included: Bill Meade (daughters include Barbara (Don) Skadden of Urbana, and Marilyn
! ! i
(Marvin) Austen of Homewood), and step-daughter Karen (Lorin) Kinney of Oakwood; Grace
Seymour (Richard “Dick”) of Oakwood: Children include Kenneth (Vivian) of Oakwood, Dorothy
Dalbey (Married Leland Cannon and Frank Dalbey) of Oakwood, Idabell Condon of Florida, and
Hubert (Joann Davis) of Danville; Bob (Helen Oakwood) of Urbana; Children include Mary Beth
Meade-Hettinger and Nancy Fletcher of Champaign; Ruth Cawthon (Jim): children: Cramer Scotty”
of Danville, and Ruth Goulding of Oakwood; John who died in Indianapolis shortly after completing
pharmacy school there of what is thought to have been hepatitis, and my mom, Mary Elizabeth
Meade who was bom September 24, 1911.
On June 27, 1937, my father married Mary Meade, and they had one son, Robert Wayne
Crawford, bom October 19, 1946. Kenneth Crawford died on October 15, 1979 following a three year
struggle with lung cancer. Mary Crawford was bom in the 100 block of S. Oakwood Street, lived
forty years in the 200 block of S. Oakwood Street and another forty in the 300 Block of S. Seymour.
Maryr Crawford died on December 26, 1994 of conjestive heart failure following a massive heart
attack on July 13. She spent the latter two weeks of July in intensive care in St. Vincents Hospital
in Indianapolis, the same hospital 150 miles from home where her brother, John, died September
29, 1920, seventy-four years earlier. All are buried in the Oakwood Cemetery.
My mom and dad eloped, just as my wife and I did. My dad believed that he needed to continue
to support his family. There was no social security in those days and his father was unable to work.
The effects of the Depression were everywhere and no one had much money. Uncle Lowell was
attending business school, and Uncle Arlyn and Aunt Meredith and Aunt Deloris were at home.
Uncle Hezzy was trying to make a go of farming. Similarly, my mother was the ‘woman of her
house. Uncle Bob and Uncle Bill were at home, and since her mother had died in the plague of 1923,
mom had assumed most of the duties of running the house. Aunt Grace and Aunt Ruth were both
married and had children of their own. On June 30, 1937, mom and dad were married in a single
ring ceremony in Kankakee. Rev W.H. Crane of the Methodist Episcopal Church officiated. An
announcement was made in the Commercial News a few years later by my Grandpa Meade. The
newspaper wrote, “The young people, both graduated of Oakwood Township High School, are
deservedly popular and have the best wishes of a host of friends.”
By the time it was announced that my parents were married Dad had a well-established
trucking business already. The marriage announcement by my Grandpa Meade was published and
a series of showers followed. My mom kept a scrap book and the many cards and tags from gills
made up a who’s who of long-time Oakwood residents. In fact, it becomes clear that virtually
everyone who has been in Vermilion county for a couple of generations is everyone else’s cousin by
marriage, a few times removed. I note that in 1940, mom was invited to a couple of showers in
which all of those in attendance were asked to contribute so that, as a group, they could buy
something special. One invitation asked her to bring 15 cents. Another stated, “Please bring a 10
cent practical gift such as a cooking utensil.”
But things took a turn for the worst, as they did for many families, during the next decade. My
father, at 36, entered the infantry. After entering Camp Blanding, Florida, in January of 1944, he
was shipped overseas in August. My mom worked for the State Bank of Oakwood and began
volunteer work for the Red Cross. Dad earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge during the fall. On
December 8, 1944, a day after his birthday, he was serving with a company that had captured and
occupied a factory area in the vicinity of Reichshoffen, France. In the middle of the night, German
forces counterattacked, eventually surrounding the building where my dad had last been seen, and
cut off the occupants of that building from contact with the remainder of the company. The
Germans entered and searched this building. Two soldiers, who had hidden in this building and
eluded the search, returned at daybreak to the remainder of the company, and reported that the
Germans had taken all of the Americans, including my dad, and disappeared into the night. A
letter from the personnel officer of the 179th Infantry to my mother suggested to her that “while the
evidence cannot be considered as conclusive, it is not unreasonable to believe that your husband was
Through the winter of 1945, mom received no word about my father. A War Department memo
was sent to mom in March. It stated, “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret
that your husband PFC Kenneth E. Crawford has been reported missing in action since eight
December in France. If further details or other information are received you will promptly be
notified” The local newspaper ran a picture of him with the headline “Oakwood Man Missing In
Action.” A few soldiers who had known him wrote to her to inquire about him, and soon after, their
wives began writing as well to send encouragement. As the Germans moved from France to
Germany, on-site prison camps were filled, and a shrapnel explosive was tossed into one of the cells
and exploded near my dad. Metal slivers covered his body, and infection set in. One particularly
deep cut was above his ankle, and he described himself at one point as being covered in puss as the
sores opened and he tried to pull the shrapnel. He was a chief barterer for goods among the group of
soldiers there, organizing men, most of whom were younger, to use what rations they had to barter
for food and clothes. Eventually, a German officer who apparently liked him, pulled some strings
and got him transferred to the German hospital in the camp. Once there, he said the doctors
concerned themselves with healing him. They packed him in some kind of salve that they dressed
several times a day of a few days until the puss began to quit, and the swelling and a temperature
finally dropped. The doctors also removed a piece of metal about an inch long from his leg.
Meanwhile, my mom waited for word. The postmaster general announced that prisoners of war
in Germany could be sent letters. The letters should be addressed to the prisoner in care of the
International Red Cross directory service in Geneva, Switzerland. Mom had written him routinely
but then letters started coming back, “Can’t be delivered.” Dad had written mom letters routinely as
well, and of course, those stopped in December. Major General J.A. Ulio wrote mom in late March
that no further information was known about my dad. He told her that “the Commanding Generals
in all our theaters of operations are making continuous efforts to establish the actual status of
personnel who have been reported as missing, or missing in action.”
The German soldier who had befriended my dad, enabled him to send a letter to mom. This was
the first confirmation she had that he was a prisoner and that he was alive and well. The
Commercial News headline read: “PFC. Kenneth Crawford Held Captive by Nazis.” On May 27, a
Western Union cable from J.A. Ulio, the Adjutant General, stated that dad was “returned to military
control.” A letter from the Vermilion County Chapter of the American Red Cross dated May 29,
1945, stated that ” PFC Kenneth Kenneth Crawford had contacted a Red Cross representative
overseas, asking that you notified of his liberation.” The next Western Union cable came on June
11: “Arrived safely expect to see you soon. love. Kenneth.” Dad was awarded a Purple Heart. On
October 19, 1946. I was born.
We lived with my Grandpa Meade in his big house at 203 S. Oakwood Street across from Dr.
Yazarian until his death in 1953. We lived in that same wonderful house with the long entry
stairway that my mom polished almost every week. Upstairs was a master bedroom that was used
as a sewing room and a playroom. I had my first electric train and tracks were layed to run around
that room. My dad and Fred Barnes decided that Steve Barnes and I (Steve and I were best
friends)-Dad and Fred decided we needed train sets, and they went to Danville and purchased
Lionel trains for each of us before we entered grade school. I have a lot of wonderful memories of
that house and those train sets.
Located so that our back yard met the backyard of Bob and Sara Andrew’s house, I remember
endless summer days playing cowboys with Chuck, and house with Mary. Chuck and I also used to
sit on their back porch and read comic books. Across the alley from them was the family of Mildred
Pryor. Roger and I hung out together a lot in both grade and high school. Two doors north of us was
Bob Beauvois who moved into what I knew as Mr. Mendenhall’s house in the fifties and we also
played together a lot. Esther Rogers lived next door and I used to go there and play cards with her
before I entered grade school. Mr. Fagley lived to our south. Grandpa always sat in the Oakwood
Street window and listened to the floor-model radio that was kept in the comer of the living room
near the fireplace. From the street, his thick, wavy white hair was always visible as he sat back in
his upholstered chair and napped.
During the summer of my seventh year, I remember being given a police outfit. I don’t know if
my mom made it from a pattern or if it was purchased-she stitched together a lot of halloween
costumes, my first suit, and a Roman Costume when I was in the Latin Club at OTHS. There
weren’t any criminals that I knew of in Oakwood so I stood in the Middle of Oakwood Street in front
of our house and stopped traffic. People stopped and I showed them my badge but then I didn’t
know what to do with them so I picked a flower from our yard real quick and told them it was for
them for driving safely. Millie Laflen came along and asked me what I was doing and I told her I
handing out flowers. She went straight home and called my Mom to tell her I was playing in
the middle of the street. That ended the traffic police beat and I went back to playing cops and
robbers with the neighborhood kids.
After Grandpa Meade’s death in 1953, my parents built the house at 301 S. Seymour St. Oscar
Covert was the contractor and mom and dad did a lot of the interior work. The house was paid for in
cash when the job was completed. They didn’t want to go into debt. It took mom several years to
convince dad to carpet the living room. The wood floors were beautiful and he didn’t want carpet to
be stapled into the floor. He asked her to think twice about any painting, print, or knick-knack that
she wanted to hang on their new walls as well because he didn’t want to ruin the newly plastered
walls with a lot of nail holes. Both of them valued their new home and worked diligently to
At that time and for several years after, Seymour Street did not exist between Longstreth Street
and Route 150. Uncle Dick Seymour sold us our lot, a 150 by 150 lot, and another lot not quite as
large. Altogether, it was close to an acre. We were only about three houses away from our old house
so it was the same neighborhood-the same playmates. We were bordered behind by a com field, to
the south by a fenced in grazing area where cows and pigs roamed, and an occasional horse. The
closest house to us on the south was across 150 where Haven and Elsie Oakwood lived. Their
daughter, Sue, was one of my earliest friends and one of my best. Mabel and Vernie Tanner built
the house across from us on Longstreth Street (across from what is now Seymour Street) between us
and the one built by Hubert Seymour on Oakwood Street. The lot between our and Tanner’s houses
was a ball diamond during the summer. Because we had so many bushes and trees to trim, it took
me about three hours to mow our yard and the space between us and the Tanners. Later, when we
both had riding mowers, Vernie and I often mowed on the same day, and I couldn’t resist trying to
speed past him as we mowed that center lot together. Besides mowing yards, one of the first means
I remember of earning money was picking strawberries. Vernie planted 1,000 strawberry plants,
and for reasons I still don’t understand, I enjoyed picking them. Later, Dad planted 100 plants and
I picked and sold them. Being allergic to strawberries, I never ate my profit.
Probably taken around 1960 is a photo of me on a riding mower with an umbrella strapped on
one side of the handlebar and a transistor radio on the other. I remember Mabel telling me once that
she always knew when I was mowing because she could hear me singing. I suppose I thought the
noise of the mower drowned out my voice and so I probably sang loud without realizing that I was
the only one who couldn’t hear me. We all survived.
I was the same age as Pat Tanner who lived next door. Pat and I use to play monopoly games
that lasted for weeks. We designed the rule that you could borrow indefinitely from the bank in
order to buy hotels for your lots, indefinitely that is until the bank was broke. Every space that
could hold a hotel did and we took turns by the turn being rich and poor. We also built a couple of
huts out of cornstalks in the field behind our house. Buddy Seymour let us keep them until he had
to plant during the spring. We called our huts “Blackfoot Village.” It wasn’t a creative name. We
left black footprints everywhere because of the mud. The huts, on the other hand were sturdy.
Sided and roofed with com stalks, they lasted throughout the winter. Pat, Tom Goodwine, and I
also built a treehouse in the vacant lot to our north (before Pappy and Nevada Wolfe bought the
property). It was about twenty feet tall and the platform would hold at least six of us.
Our driveway off Longstreth went to the back of our house (several years later it became the
entrance to the Oakwood Park) where dad had a garage for his trucks. He had three 2-172 ton
trucks, a 172 ton pickup, a tractor, a conveyor belt, and a boat, all parked behind a tall row of spirea,
out of sight. The driveway divided pur yard from the vacant lot which was filled with ivy and wild
flowers. On the other side of it lived Lily and Tom Harper who served cookies and milk whenever I
went there. Lily had been my dad’s grade school teacher. They also had a large grape arbor in the
back of their yard and a path to it that was lined with flowers. At the end of the block is where
Gertrude Davis lives, and she also always had cookies and milk. I was never overweight but I ate a
lot of cookies.
Our driveway also formed a circle in front of our house. At the widest part in the drive, where
the circle turned toward our house off of Longstreth Street, my dad put up a basketball hoop and
backboard. It wasn’t unusual to find fifteen or twenty kids outside playing on a rock court– most of
it hard from the blacktop. Under the basket, though, you slid in loose rock. In winter, we played in
our garage which also had a hoop.
Caddy-corner from us lived Oral and Vera Longstreth (where their son, Don, currently lives)
who always kept rows of beautiful flowers-in his garden. One day, as I walked past them, I decided
that my Mom needed a bouquet, and I picked a couple flowers and headed homeward. Oral came
out the back door and asked me what I was doing. When I told him, he told me I should have asked
before picking his flowers. However, he also said that I hadn’t picked enough flowers to shape a
good bouquet and he picked a variety of kinds of flowers, cut the stems, and arranged them into a
bouquet. I never picked any more of his flowers but I always admired them.
Down at the grade school on summer nights, they used to show “free movies.” We’d take popcorn
and blankets-it seemed like the whole town went to watch movies. I remember once seeing a movie
about women on Mars. It was in color. When I got home later that night, the same movies was on
television. I probably didn’t understand how the television station could have gotten the movie so
quickly-I suspect I hadn’t realized that copies existed. I suppose I thought if a movie was playing at
the Palace or Fisher theater, that was the only movie version and it couldn’t be playing elsewhere.
When I saw the movie on our black and white television, I spent the whole time telling mom and dad
what it looked like in color. I don’t recall anyone having a color television yet.
I remember us walking up the street to Floyd Lee’s house once to see movies in color on a black
and white screen. He had a plastic cover over the screen that kind of resembled light blue at the
top, a pink in the middle and light green at the bottom. It was the latest thing at the time. If you
were looking at an outdoor scene with grass in the forefront, trees in the middle and a blue sky on
top, it was great. But if you looked at a close up of a person’s face, they had a green chin and blue
hair. A couple of years later, we had a color TV, but for awhile, it seemed like the only program in
color was Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.
Another annual summer event was the Toby and Suzie Carnivals. Once I went uptown in the
evening with Chuck Andrews and this car pulled up the alley across from the Blue Room. Two men
and a woman were in the car. They threw a switchblade at someone but apparently no one saw
them. We saw the knife stick in the ground and Chuck picked it up. Then we turned around and
saw the three of them looking at us. They drove on but we saw the car return in a few moments.
We were never supposed to say anything about it but at this point in time, it hardly matters. Then,
it was intriguing.
When I was in the fourth grade, Harold Downing gave me a beautiful black and white cat. I
named the cat Harold. One afternoon when Mary Andrews (DeRay) and I were playing out back, we
climbed up to the overhead in the truck garage-a crawl space covered with blankets which had been
a sort of clubhouse site. Both of us were astonished and we ran back to her house and told Sara that
Harold had caught three mice—a calico one, a brown one, and an orange one. Sara told us we might
want to change Harold’s name to Haroldine. We went back home and told Mom and she climbed up
to look for himself. Sure enough, Harold was a female. Since we had no neighbors on three sides
and fields on two, the cat was supposed to catch field mice before they got into the house.
It was okay that we had three more kittens than we planned to have. But a few summers later
when the next litter of kittens all had kittens at the same time, we, for about six weeks until we
could find them homes, had twenty-three cats, most of them kittens. Dad cut a small square hole in
the truck garage so they could get away from dogs. In winter, he built a fire in the wood stove when
it was near zero and all the cats would sleep together in the loft where the heat rose. During the
peak of those summer litters, you had to tip-toe outside with food. Otherwise, you had 23 cats at
your feet and you couldn’t move. They come running from the garage so fast, two or three of them
would jump through the cat-door simultaneously and get stuck. Then, they had to wiggle their way
out. Although neither mom or dad ever admitted to liking cats, they took good care of them. In fact,
one cat climbed up under one of dad’s trucks once and he drove to the gravel pit near the Salt Kettle
on Rte. 150. When he stopped, the cat jumped out and meowed. He brought the cat back home and
then went back to work.
In the sixth grade, mom and dad gave me a go-cart for Christmas. Ed McClure made it. It had
an Indianapolis speedway race car look to it and a 3 1/2 HP Briggs and Stratton engine. I think it
went about eight miles an hour at it fastest. I loved it and drove it all over town, and once in awhile
down to Bronson and back. If you sat a board across the seating area, two people could sit up in it
and cruise around town. For lack of anything to do on a summer afternoon at age twelve, we’d
“tour” Oakwood, pointing out the “Seven Wonders of Oakwood.” I cannot remember what they were.
One was the water tower, and another was Charlie Reed’s garden with the gold fish pond. I think
Girton’s house usually fit in because it was architecturally interesting. I think Aunt Grace and
Uncle Dick Seymour’s house (where their grandson, Mike Cannon, lives) was one, and Green’s castle
another (where Charles and Betty Montgomery live.) The “wonders” probably changed with
One day, Beth Hart (Beth Gutterridge) and I was cruising around town and I zipped up Main
Street to 150 and pulled into the gas station. Gordon Bridgeman lighted out and asked me if I
wanted him to fill it up. It cost 7 cents and you could drive for several hours on that. But after I
paid him (in pennies) another man stepped out of the station wearing a uniform of the Vermilion
County Sheriff. He said he ought to give me a ticket because I was too young to have driver’s license
but he said Beth was such a pretty girl and we both had such big smiles (our eyes were pretty big
then too) that he’d let it pass this time, just stay off 150 from now on. Sometime later, a state
trooper pulled me over. I’d come from the grade school past Uncle Bill’s house (Bill Meade) and was
approaching Main Street when he went by and saw me. He gave me a ticket for not having a
driver’s license and told me I didn’t have front lights or back lights and didn’t have a hydraulic
brake system and I didn’t belong on the streets. Runt Oakwood was the Justice of Peace at that
time and he said he had to fine me for the ticket. He charged me one dollar. I remember being
grateful and pulling out a billfold that zipped shut. I had one dollar bill.
I suppose I was about 13, old enough to know better and young enough to enjoy what I was
doing, when rains had turned the ballpark behind Tuck’s drive-in into a mud swamp. I, and I won’t
name any accomplices, made mudballs. We started out having a mudball fight, but somewhere in
the process of making a pile of mudballs behind the fence that overlooked Rte. 150, the idea of a
moving target must appealed to us. We threw a mud ball at an occasional pick up truck, but no one
slammed on their brakes or did anything. Mostly we missed or barely sliced an already dirty fender.
But then I let go of this mudball just as this brand new car came along and the people driving it had
bought it new and picked it up in Indianapolis and were driving home to Champaign. They had not
been home with it when they breezed by. The woman in the front passenger seat had her window
about half way down, and the couple had several good clothes hanging on hooks in the back seat.
And this perfect mudball of mine slipped right through that open window, slammed into the rearview
mirror, and splattered that dear woman in the face. Talk about upset. Those brakes slammed
on, and that car came backwards real fast. My friend and I tried to get out of the ball park, but
since it was a mud fest and our bicycles slipped everywhere and had to be steered out, we were just
getting to the edge of Tuck’s drive-in when that new car blocked the opening. That woman sure was
Once on Oakwood street, I pedaled home about as fast as I could with this big white car on me
like a shadow. Tanners were having some kind of barbecue in the back yard and there were all of
the neighbors. I remember yelling, “Dad, oh Dad, somebody wants to see you.” Dad came home with
a smile on his face. I apologized to the angiy couple that dad managed to calm down. I brought out
a bucket and wiped all the mud up in their new car and Dad helped me. He probably did more than
I did. Dad paid them twelve dollars to get their clothes diy cleaned. I had to pay him back the
money on the basis of so many hours of pulling weeds. Maybe as soon as the weekend, we visited
Aunt Helen in Urbana. I was the first one in the house and the first thing she said was, “How’s the
mudball throwing business? Did you learn your lesson.” Since mom and dad hadn’t entered the
house yet, I couldn’t figure out how she knew and I asked her. “Word travels fast in Oakwood,” she
said. “It goes from first this house and then to that house and pretty soon it’s made it all the way to
Urbana. It doesn’t take long to get here.” I believed her for about ten minutes before I realized
she’d talked to them on the phone, but she had a point.
Before Interstate 74 was open, when one lane was all that was complete, me and my cousin,
Nancy Meade, decided we would bicycle to Ogden on the fresh slab. Bobby Harlan, who had lived
where Pryors lived now, and who was bom the same day as me, had moved to Ogden. I guess I
thought we could go visit him. Nancy sat on the handlebars. We got somewhere beyond Fithian but
short of Ogden when exhaustion hit us. It seemed like it was 110 degrees and so windy you
couldn’t hear yourself think and my legs were pedaled out. We turned around to come back against
the wind and we were both worn out. First we took turns riding the bike but it was so windy we
could barely turn the wheels. Then we took turns walking the bike. By the time we got to Muncie, I
think we both thought we were going to die. We managed to get to Muncie to Hendrick’s Grocery
Store and called home. Mom picked us up, a little miffed that we had ever thought we could go that
far, especially without telling her first.
If you told someone you were going to go uptown, that meant you were going to go downtown
Oakwood – the Blue Room, Harrison Rogers and Fred Barnes IGA Store, Vem Swisher’s Barber
Shop, the bank where Mabel Tanner worked or the post office where Estella Chestnut worked. In
those days Estella handed you your mail, and she always told me to say hello to my parents for her.
If you were going downtown, that meant you were going downtown Danville.
When I was in high school, we had street dances during the summer. The area on Main Street
in front of the Blue Room was roped off and local bands played rock’n’ roll. Saw dust was scattered
over the road and teenagers danced. Kids came from all over the county.
When I entered high school, I often walked to the bus stop, the Blue Room with either Pat
Tanner or Mary Andrews. I wasn’t very regular about the time I left home. I stopped by Mary’s on
my slow morning and Pat’s on my fast mornings. More often than anyone had a right to expect,
Fred Montgomeiy, the bus driver, would stop at the end of the alley on Oakwood Street to see if we
were ready. Mary and I would then run up the alley from her house to catch the waiting bus. I
guess I got quicker after the freshman year and there seemed to be a lot more people on the bus by
the time it arrived at the Blue Room. Margaret Hays always saved me a seat so I didn’t have to
stand or sit half -on and half-in-the-aisle. I always looked forward to seeing Margaret Hays who was
cheerful in the morning. I was never veiy alert at 7:30. If there was a third person, it was usually
Ed McClure, and during our senior year, we made a pretty good morning mix.
On Mom and Dad
Aunt Delores told me once that she thought Oakwood had been a good place to live, and I
certainly found that true as I grew up there. My parents were as close to perfect as parents can get.
They were very hard-working, organized, productive, and down-to-earth people. They also had a lot
of fun. My dad would usually get up no later than five a.m. On weekends when I’d sleep, he would
always come in saying, “rise and shine, you’re sleeping your life away.” As a teenager, I didn’t think
there was much life to sleep away during the day time. Mom fixed him breakfast most of the time,
and he’d be in the garage behind the house getting everything set for that day’s trucking business.
He worked hard labor and long hours. More than one person told me they had seen dad shovel
enough coal by hand to pave a road to Bronson.
If he was working in the area during the summer, he came home for lunch. Mom always fixed
full meals. It was rare for her to bring food home, and she fixed full lunches as well as dinners. We
always had dinner (supper) together and we always talked about things. I cannot remember a time
in which I wasn’t asked what I thought about things or how I felt about things. Both of them had a
sense of humor, mom’s t nding toward funny descriptions and retold stories. Dad’s toward oneliners
and practical jokes. Both shared their thoughts, occasionally with the warning, “this doesn’t
leave the table.” The tru h is that neither of them had veiy many people that they spoke badly of
ever. They both liked people and our house was frequently filled with them.
A lot of dinners were shared with neighbors. A lot of camping trips involved four or five families.
A lot of parties were hosted. But Mainly, people just dropped in to visit. People came to pay bills
and they sat at the kitchen table, drank coffee or iced tea and talked about all kinds of things.
People were always paying their bills in person-not by mail, and they dropped off what they’d call
“extras,” a few good tomatoes, a watermelon or pumpkin, ears of corn, grape jelly, or somebody’s
grandmother’s salve for cuts of burns, or some kind of puzzle they couldn’t figure out, or some local
event that they had only partially reconstructed. Typically, you’d hear a couple of light taps on the
kitchen door-you wouldn’t hear people enter the indoor garage because they slipped in so quicklyand
then they’d call out to somebody. If I was alone, it wasn’t unusual for a stranger-to-me to knock
on the door, ask me if I was Kenny’s son or Kenny and Mary’s son, how old was I, what year in
school, did I like school and that’s good if I did, and then hand me cash or check that they said they
owned my dad for a load of coal or rock or dirt, and I’d ask if they wanted a receipt, and almost none
of them ever did.
After dinner on workdays, and that’s often when the most business calls came, dad went back to
the garage to keep the trucks in condition and ready for the next day. In the summer, he often
worked from 5:00 until 9:00. He watched almost no television except on weekends. He used to like
Gunsmoke and Bonanza and he liked spy thriller such as “I Led Three Lives” and ” Secret Service”.
He also stayed up late and watched “Adventures In Paradise” with me on Sundays part of the time.
He always read the Commercial-News and he enjoyed reading history, although he didn’t read much
because he didn’t have time to read. Mom read more, and she kept magazines around all the time,
but she too was busy doing other things.
Mom is the one that studied with me the most. Both of them insisted that I go to college and
they encouraged me to study. I had always thought of my dad as a truck driver who didn’t read and
didn’t know much about writing or literature. I came home from college once, probably showing off,
and I asked him some questions about something in Hamlet that I didn’t understand. I remember
saying, “I don’t understand Shakespeare,” and my dad asked me, “Who wrote Shakespeare?” Then
it dawned on him that Shakespeare was the author and not the language, but in many ways, at least
to me that time, Shakespeare was also a language and it was one I didn’t understand. I didn’t
expect my dad to be much help with my reading of Shakespeare. He sat down at the kitchen table,
read Hamlet faster than I ever could, and patiently explained the multitude of possibilities of
meaning to me. He had an incredible insight into language and I called on him more than once to
interpret a scenario. It took me a lot of years to read something structurally — something he knew a
long time ago and without formal training.
On workdays, his routine was early to bed, early to rise, work, work, work. If he had a chance to
sit down, he usually fell asleep. But not all summer days were like that, and winters and weekends
were not at all like that. Just as people were always dropping in at our house and just as that
created a kind of social life in and of itself, we were also always dropping in on people. Someone
always had a new something to be seen, or they’d picked up fresh strawberries or watermelon, ~ it
didn’t matter what it was because everything was something over which to come together. For
example, I remember being invited to Jake and Betty Wolfe’s once to watch Elvis Presley debut on
the Ed Sullivan show. My parents were not interested in Elvis but they were interested in gettogethers.
My parents laughed and joked a lot. Both were close to all their brothers and sisters,
both seemed to have a lot of interests, and both seemed to have a lot of friends. Home was a happy
place and my childhood was not dull.
Almost every Sunday was spent at the Sportsman’s Club on Lake Vermilion. Dad had a boat
and we went boating, fishing, swimming or picnicking. He pulled me and a zillion kids on a surf
board or a water toboggan. Although he worked long hours, six days a week during the summer, he
tried to be free on Saturday nights and all day Sunday for mom and I. Although he had to have
been exhausted, I never saw it during those times nor heard him complain. During winters, dad
hauled coal before homes were converted to gas. At one point in the early sixties, he had 24 people
on account; that is, they were mostly elderly and widowed and they couldn’t pay for the fuel they
needed. He kept coal in their furnaces — he used to keep a mound of coal by the garage in case “one
of the widows” ran out, but he didn’t let them run out. Almost all of them paid their bills eventually.
One man sent dad a $26 check in 1970 to complete payment from a bill in 1961. I remember dad
saying that he hadn’t expected it. He kept bills on record but he didn’t send a second bill to people
that he thought were struggling.
Dad also poured rock or cinders in the pot holes in various alleys around town to keep the alleys
open to traffic, and he used to keep the parking lots in several churches upgraded. I remember one
minister telling me that, when he was new to Oakwood, he had walked across the parking lot full of
holes one day and when he walked across it the next day it was like a new lot. He knew no one had
asked anyone to repair the lot. Dad used to help at the high school too, cutting a track and hauling
in saw dust. He told me these were opportunities for him to contribute to the community. Dad cut,
graded, and filled Seymour Street, put in many of the driveways to new houses and hauled in good
top soil and graded many of the original lawns. Creating Seymour Street cost $18,000. Most of
what I have been told is that if he did it, it was done right and the landscaping has held thirty years
By the time I entered high school, mom had become a cook at the high school, and she worked
there for a couple of years before working for the Illinois Office of Public Aid in Danville, from which
she retired. Before she took either of the jobs, she and dad talked about her going to work. Then
she asked me what I thought. They encouraged me to help inform many of their decisions. I never
felt left out.
Despite working full time, mom was home from work almost as soon as I was home from school.
She continued to prepare breakfasts, she often made my lunch, she fixed dinner, she kept the house
clean and uncluttered and she did laundry. Because of dad’s work, there was always a lot of dirty
clothes. She also kept busy with arts and crafts, she sewed a lot of clothes — including a Beatles suit
for me when I was a senior in high school. She was active with Eastern Star and the United
Methodists Women’s Auxiliary, and she helped my dad do the business bookkeeping. She also
served as the treasure of the Village of Oakwood before the change of form of government occurred.
When my dad retired and while mom continued to work, he assumed many of the household duties.
He tried to have dinner for her when she got home from work. He picked up the house, ran the
vacuum, washed the dishes, and occasionally did the laundiy. My dad had always worked long
hours and my mom had always tried to create a home to which he could return and relax. He
provided the same home for the same kind of reason for her. While I was never privy to the
thoughts they didn’t share, the actions that they took at home conveyed to me a sense that this was
a remarkable couple. Although my dad died fifteen years before my mother, I was never surprised
that she didn’t date or consider remarrying. She still had the holes filled in a wall if she took down a
picture. Although she had a dishwasher, she still washed dishes by hand and looked out the window
over the sink at the two-truck garage in the back yard, and she kept her rose bushes growing in
front of the garage as they have been since 1954. Similarly, she still paid some of her bills in his
name. Mom filled her life with her family and friends.
I was diagnosed as asthmatic within a few days of my birth. During the first fourteen years,
especially between April and October, I frequently had attacks that lasted several days at a time.
Modern steriod derivatives, sophisticated inhalers, and effective decongestants were not yet
available, so it was difficult to prevent or recover quickly from these attacks. Around 1958, I had a
severe asthma attack. We had a 1958 Chevy Impala and I think it was the first car we ever owned
that was brand new. It had clear plastic seat covers. My mom helped me to the car which was
parked in our garage, and we were headed for Danville to see a doctor. I remember sitting on the
edge of the front seat, gasping for breath, and I turned my head slightly and saw all of this runny
yellow stuff on the back seat. I asked what it was, and as mom turned to look, there was a fluttering
noise and a big blackbird flipflopped on the back seat. It looked like its neck was broken. My mom
very calmly told me to get out of the car, and she closed the doors and pulled the car out of the
garage. Then she reached for a broom, opened the two back doors, and tried to get the bird to fly
away. It squawked and flipflopped up and down but didn’t seem able to fly. I got back in the car,
she closed the door and drove uptown to the Blue Room. I guess some of the people inside saw her
pull in because they were outside before she got out of the car. I remember Les Wolfe being the first
one out and he could barely stop laughing. As a practical joke, he (and not he alone) had placed
what he thought was a dead bird in the backseat of the car. I never saw my mom more furious than
that moment. She said, “My son’s sick and I have to get him to a doctor. There’s nothing funny
about this.” Les took one look at me opened the back door and pulled out the bird. He said he’d
clean up the mess, but Mom said she didn’t have time for that. He pulled out his handkerchief and
quickly wiped across the seat. I know that my dad had played jokes on Les before and this was
probably overdue. When we were back that afternoon, Les came over to the house with a wet
washcloth to wipe out the car. Mom had already done it and Les apologized. He said the bird had
been placed in the car the previous afternoon and thought Dad would find it later that night. When
Mom pulled in front of the Blue Room, he thought they had already discovered the bird and he was
going to tease her about it, saying that he heard about it in the Blue Room. I don’t think mom
viewed her car as a mere car. I think she viewed it as an ambulance. Les and Jeannie Wolfe,
however, remained good friends. When doctors prescribed allergy shots for me in high school,
Jeannie Wolfe gave them to me.
My Grandpa Meade and I were bom on Oct. 19, and the week of the 19th had always been a
period of both happiness and sadness. My grandfather died when I was eight and the funeral was
held in our big house. The funeral was on the eighteenth. My dad also died on October 15th and his
funeral was held on the 18th. It was also on my birthday that I had to place my mom in a nursing
home because her doctors had to monitor her on a daily basis. My mom had suffered a massive
heart attack in July and I had brought her home to Macomb with me to help recover. After several
hospitalizations, it was clear to us both that in-home care wasn’t adequate. When I told her that I
had to put in a nursing home, she looked as serious and straight forward as she ever did, and she
said, “Now I don’t want you to feel guilty about this. We’ve done everything we could, and I know
this is necessary.” I told her I didn’t feel guilty. She told me I did. What I felt was an
overwhelming helplessness. I wanted her to recover but the damage was too severe. All I could do
was thank her for my life and stay by her side. Both of my parents have been models of
understanding, and I’ve been constantly amazed that, when consumed with their own painful
struggles to stay alive or oppose the odds, they continued to the very end to consider their effects on
other people. My mom’s last complete sentence was, “You’ve been a wonderful son.” The truth is
that I had wonderful parents. Part of that wonder is the amount of time and effort and care they
gave me to insure that my life would be easier than theirs. My dad once told me to measure the
quality of someone’s life by the people who filled it. By that measure, I know of no two people who
could have enjoyed a fuller or richer life than my parents in Oakwood.
In 1969, then Entertainment Editor of the Chicago Daily News, Richard Christiansen, hired me
as their “Rock Critic,” and I began an intense three years of covering rock concerts and reviewing
new recordings and interviewing celebrities. A lot of my reviews started making it into the
downstate editions and Mom and Dad started clipping articles. They were not about mining,
farming, educating, trucking, or banking. They were about Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Chuck
Berry, Elton John, and Led Zeppelin.
In 1969 I did what my parents had done in 1937. I eloped. Barbara Feldman and I were
married by a Justice of Peace in Chicago. By 1972, we were ready to think about raising a family
and we were already thinking that Chicago wasn’t the place to do it. Oakwood was. I reviewed the
Rolling Stones’ “Exit on Main Street” as my last official act for the Chicago Daily News, and the
next day we moved to Oakwood. We put down a thousand dollars and took a mortgage for the
remaining nine thousand to purchase the house at 302 S. Olmstead. I had earned a bachelors
degree in communication by this time and I entered the University of Illinois to complete
requirements for an Illinois teaching certificate. During the fall of 72,1 also began substituting in
the Danville Public Schools, especially at the high school where Judy and Ethyl Oakwood
acquainted me with a lot of people. During the second semester, I took 21 semester hours at the U
of I and was hired as a permanent substitute to fill a vacancy at Danville High School. The position
was in journalism and that matched my background. I took the position and I loved it. In 1973, my
teaching salary was $6,800. I stayed at Danville High School until 1987. During that time, I led the
school newspaper to ten national awards, served as president of the Danville Education Association,
and was named “Teacher of the Year.” One of my students, Scott Shaw, later earned a Pulitzer
Prize in photography. Two far more important events also occurred. Our daughter, Kim was bom
in 1975 and our son, John, in 1980.
On May 9, 1969 in Chicago, Wayne Crawford married Barbara Rae Feldman and they have two
children, Kimberly Ellen, bom March 17, 1975, and John Kenneth, bom February 14, 1980. They
moved into the Olmstead Street home in June of 1972 and moved to 1604 N. Vermilion, Danville, in
- In 1989, they moved to Bloomington where Wayne completed coursework for a doctorate in
rhetoric and composition at Illinois State University. In 1992, they moved to Macomb, 111. Kim is
currently a junior at Illinois State University double-majoring in English and Communication and
planning on earning a doctorate and teaching at a university. John is in the eighth grade at
Macomb Junior High school. He plays on the eighth grade basketball team, and as of now, plans on
attending Western Illinois University. Barbara teaches art part-time at Macomb Junior High
School and has a studio where she works as a sculptor. She is a past president of the Danville Art
League and has won numerous awards for her art. Wayne is a professor at Western Illinois
University where he teaches English Methods courses, is an associate to the graduate faculty and a
rhetoric and composition specialist. He directs the English Education Outreach Program, publishes
articles in academic journals, and poetry and fiction in literary journals. I
in ■ i. i
Wilma Cronkhite is the daughter of William and Emma Cronkhite. She was born in Oakwood in
the house west of the old bank. The house has since been torn down. She moved to Scott Street
when two years old, before moving to Farmersburg, Indiana, for six years. Then her family moved
back to their Scott Street residence. Wilma graduated from Oakwood High School in 1937 and the
Summers Beauty School in Danville in 1939.
On October 5, 1940, she married Robert Taylor, and later married Jack Thomas on November 1,
- Their children are; Richard Thomas and Vickie Thomas Hankla.
Wilma’s first beauty shop was in the basement of 201 South Oakwood Street. In 1946 she
moved to Danville and remained a member of the Oakwood Christian Church until 1950. Her sister,
Waneta Steenbergen, still lives in Oakwood.
Father, William Cronkhite, had an ice house and delivered ice around the Oakwood vicinity for
Mary Rosellen Gerdes, daughter of William and Elizabeth Gerdes, was born in Cabool,
Missouri, on October 26, 1904. She married Louis McBride in Cabool, Missouri, on November 21,
- To this union was bom five children: Louis Raymond McBride, born in 1921 passed away
shortly after birth, Thelma Faye Francis Spencer was born in 1922 in Oakwood, Miles Martin
McBride was bom in 1924 in Tucson, Arizona, Leonard Lee McBride was bom in 1927 in Tucson,
Arizona. Geraldine Elizabeth Hawkins was bom in 1930 in Ottawa, Illinois.
Rose McBride married Dewey Cuny on July 6, 1937, and moved to Oakwood, Illinois, in 1938.
As a result of an accident involving her daughter, Geraldine Hawkins, they enjoyed raising her
three children. Rose was an Eastern Star member for 43 years. She was Worthy matron of the
Oakwood Chapter in 1955 and transferred to the Iris Chapter #307 in 1975. Rose loved to cook and
worked at Colonial Manor Nursing Home and Newtown School. They operated a lumber yard,
restaurant, filling station, and grocery. In 1968 they sold the business and moved to a small farm
north of Oakwood. Rose and Dewey were married 45 years before he passed away on July 20, 1982.
Rose moved to Danville, Illinois, on October 1, 1982.
She was also preceded in death by her father, mother, two brothers, one sister, and one great
She was survived by two brothers and three sisters: Anna Hazelwood of Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma, Leonard Gerdes of Hemet, California, Paul Gerdes of Oakdale, California, Agnes Lewis
Salinas, California, and Esther Braden of Denver, Colorado.
She was grandmother to seven children: Marian Francis Disney of Oakwood, Illinois. Jeff
Francis of Oakwood, Lariy McBride of St. Joseph, Terry McBride of Tucson, John R. Hawkins of
Danville, Lori Hawkins of Muncie, and David Hawkins of Tucson.
She was great grandmother to thirteen children: Cary Allen Disney and Staci Disney-Walker,
Douglas, Duane, and Ryan McBride, Steve and John Dewey Hawkins, Justin and Corey Smith, Lesli
and Brooke Francis, April and Melody McBride.
She was great, great grandmother to five children.
Rose (McBride) Curry passed away October 23,1994.
William (Bill) Curtis was born August 30, 1923, in
Charleston, Illinois. He lived a long time in Catlin and
retired as an iron worker. He plays with the Circuit Riders,
a gospel band. He has a daughter, Becky McMillan, in
Wisconsin. Bill married LaVerne August 1, 1993, at a
surprise wedding at the Oakwood Christian Church
immediately after the morning church service. They reside
at 1 Penz Drive in Oakwood.
LaVerne was bom May 31, 1942 in California and came
to Oakwood in 1961. She received her AS degree from
DACC in 1981 and her CNA certificate in 1992, and has
been taking care of Gladys Illk for the last two and one-half
years. She joined the Oakwood Christian Church August
LaVerne has two daughters, April Ann (Longstreth)
Armstrong born December 18, 1961, and Mary Ellen
Longstreth (now Longstreth Burchyett) bom May 18, 1964.
April and Ellen were in the Brownies and played on the
Oakwood Girls’ Softball Team while LaVerne was a
Brownie Leader in Oakwood two years and helped out with
Vacation Bible School in 1969.
April graduated from Oakwood High School in 1978 and
1985 in Baton
Berlin, Germany, i
four years and
eight months in
the U.S. Air
was born there.
April received her
at Louisiana State University, is able to speak five languages (English, Spanish, Russian, German,
and French), and is working on her Ph.D.
Ellen graduated as Valedictorian of Oakwood Grade School in 1978 and as Co-Valedictorian of
Oakwood High School in 1982. She married Mark Burchyett September 3, 1992. She received her
Bachelor’s Degree in math and economics from Illinois State University in May 1986 and is
presently working to finish a Masters Degree in economics. Ellen and Mark live in Springfield.
Ellen works for CIPS.
Bill & LaVerne Curtis
Bill, April & Hannah Armstrong Mary Ellen Longstreth