Lifelong resident and local historian Marge Beamer answers questions from readers about the history of Elmhurst.
Q: My grandfather told me that the cops in Elmhurst have been conducting “safety checks” for decades. Is he right?
A: He sure is! Elmhurst was one of the first police departments in the country to conduct safety checks as a waste of police resources. This 1966 photo of York at Schiller Street in downtown Elmhurst shows a police officer looking for impaired drivers and jaywalkers on a Saturday morning.
Q: I read somewhere that Hamburger Heaven used to be called something else. What was it called?
A: “Hamburger Purgatory” opened in May of 1948. After dismal sales during the first two years of business, the name was changed in 1950 to “Hamburger Heaven”. Out of spite, the owners repositioned the layout of the building, forcing customers to place food orders while standing just a few feet away from the curb of North Avenue.
Q: Was there ever a time when residents were pleased with the shopping choices in downtown Elmhurst?
A: Not really. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, downtown Elmhurst was a thriving business area and had almost no empty storefronts. A variety of clothing and department stores helped make Elmhurst a well-rounded shopping experience. But as the median income of residents increased dramatically during the 1980’s, people demanded more banks to deposit all of their money and more dessert shops to spend their disposable income.
Q: It seems that Elmhurst schools are always facing budget problems. Has this always been the case?
A: Yes! Back in 1895, students from the Churchville Schoolhouse actually taught each other after budget cuts forced the district to eliminate 75% of the teachers in Elmhurst schools.
Q: I made a lot of new friends when I moved to Spring Road in Elmhurst back in 2006 by hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Parade viewing party in my front yard. What can you tell me about the history of this awesome event?
A: The parade was never received well by the people of Elmhurst until the early 2000’s, when the city began turning a blind eye toward spectator alcohol consumption. In fact, the parade was often held on the last Saturday in February in the 1990’s (as shown in this 1998 photo) just to get it out of the way.
Q: When did the York Theatre open?
A: The original York Theatre opened in 1924, and the price of an adult admission back then was only $6.00!
Q: Was Salt Creek always as scuzzy and disease-infested as it is today?
A: Indeed it was! These cattle from a 1920 photograph of Salt Creek died just minutes after drinking the water from the creek.