ELBURN – American Legion members recently removed the bronze memorial plaques from the entryway of the Legion building to move them to Veterans Memorial Park. When they did, they made a surprising discovery – a November 1954 issue of the Elburn Herald had been placed behind one of the plaques. The paper had been donated and signed by Almer Gliddon, then owner of Gliddon’s Drug Store, noting the value of the issue at 6 cents.
The issue contained a story about the Legion’s mortgage-burning at its annual Veterans Day Dinner celebrating the final payment for the building at 112 N. Main St., Elburn. The facility, named the Community Memorial Center, was built with donations from the community to honor those who served in World War I and II. Residents purchased the cement blocks to build the structure, which was described as a “living memorial” of the spirit of the community.
Norbert Lund, who will celebrate his 90th birthday with a May 26 party at the Legion, is one of Elburn’s oldest veterans. Although the younger members joke that the Legion structure was built around Lund, the building was actually almost completed when he returned home from serving in the Korean War in 1954.
Lund said the Daniel Simpson Elburn American Legion Post 630 was named after an Elburn World War I soldier whose body was never found. The group was formed in 1919, with members meeting at St. Gall’s Church, the Masonic Lodge and each other’s houses before the building was constructed.
He said the space where the Legion building sits today had been the home of the Elburn Herald newspaper before that building burned down.
Lund graduated from high school in the mid-1940s, when veterans from World War II were returning home 20 and 30 at a time. By the 1950s, Lund said there were 50 Legion members who spent nights and weekends helping to construct the Legion building. Many of the veterans had skills in carpentry, plumbing, electricity and other facets of construction.
He said the first thing he did as a member of the post was to help hang the lights in the basement.
Although the building is owned and operated by the American Legion Post 630, it has a rich history of serving a variety of purposes within the Elburn community.
Lund said that Village Council meetings were held there, with many of the veterans returning home from war filled with pride and patriotism and eager to participate in government service. The building also housed the town library before it acquired its own building.
Almer Gliddon’s daughter, Mary (Gliddon) Gustafson, who was 7 years old in 1954, said two classrooms were located in the building, one in which she attended first grade. As one of Elburn’s first wave of baby boomers, Gustafson said the village was beginning to run out of room for all the young students in town.
Gliddon would later marry Ken Gustafson, and, after graduating from pharmacy school, the two would take over the pharmacy at 116 N. Main St., Elburn, in 1982 after her father retired.
She remembered Elburn while growing up as a much smaller town, where everyone literally knew everyone else. She said the town was fairly self-sufficient, with a general store, a hardware store, three grocery stores and a couple of banks. Many of the downtown business owners lived in apartments above their storefronts. She and her family lived in the back of the pharmacy.
Randy Ream’s father, Robert Ream, purchased the original meat market owned for many years by Fred Schwarz, located at 128 N. Main St., Elburn. Robert Ream, who had been employed for more than 10 years by Dreymiller and Kray Quality Meats in Hampshire, came to Elburn eager to smoke his own hams and make his own sausage.
He took possession of the meat market on Nov. 1, 1954, according to an article in the same issue of the Elburn Herald. Another article touted the 25th anniversary of the Elburn Lions Club.
Former mayor Dave Anderson, who eventually took over ownership from his father of The Grocery Store at 109 N. Main St., Elburn, said he started working for Robert Ream in 1958. He remembered that the American Legion Auxiliary operated a resale shop in the Legion building, similar to the Beautiful U Resale Shop located there now.
Anderson recalls the Legion building also being used as a recreational space, hosting wedding dinners, Halloween and Christmas parties, and bingo games in the basement.
“All of the people in the village used it,” he said.