In honor of the anniversary of my father’s 105 birth year, I continue this series about his life:
In 1963, my mother and I attended the Illinois Crime Commission’s summer hearings held in the old county board room at what is now Woodstock City Hall. It was twice the size of the current Woodstock City Council Chambers.
Crime Commission Executive Director Charles Siragusa had investigated a bookmaking operation in Crystal Lake and presented diagrams of Crystal Lake businesses (like the magazine shop on Williams Street) from which bets were phoned to a room on the second floor the Pinemoor Hotel southwest of the First Congregational Church. At the time, we knew the Pinemoor as a great place for pizza. (It still is near the “V” in the Crystal Lake Plaza.)
The owner of the Pinemoor was Harry Snell, our Republican precinct committeeman. He told the commissioners he didn’t know what was going on upstairs.
Algonquin Township Precinct 7 was huge. It went from Route 14 to the the McHenry-Kane County line east of McHenry Avenue. Most of the homes were in Crystal Lake and Lakewood. The current Lake in the Hills and Algonquin subdivisions west of Randall Road did not exist then. They were farms.
In 1964, my father ran for the office of McHenry County Auditor. It was the first year that the county had enough population to have one–over 80,000 people.
He ran against McHenry County Board Chairman Harley Mackeben, who was on the board by virtue of his position as Grafton Township Supervisor.
My father and mother ran a leisurely campaign in the then-90,000 person county, telling people who asked whether he would quit his Barley and Malt Institute job that he wouldn’t, that the job only require part-time work, which was subsequently proven correct.
Mother and Dad campaigned in the little northern and western towns on weekends, going into the small bars and stores and introducing themselves.
Lots of people obviously thought they were voting for my father. “I thought you were older,”
I heard again and again when they met me, the 20-something, in the Treasurer’s Office.
The same year, Dad decided that he would make a more appropriate precinct committeeman than Harry, ran against him and won.
In 1967, Dad, who had successfully opposed the formation of a junior college district in 1963, called a meeting in the cafeteria of Crystal Lake Community High School that led to the formation of a committee that successfully created McHenry County College with a ten-cent tax rate. The committee promoted a college that would be one-third funded by student tuition, one-third by local property taxpayers and one-third by the state. (Needless to say, state government did not come through with the promises made by state officials who spoke to McHenry County college proponents.)
The referendum passed on April 1, 1967, and Dad was elected to serve on its first board.