Creating a treasure trove of historical sources

Opinion

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By CHRIS STACH

You, as readers of this, my 105th column and my many historical features, have seen fit to sprinkle bits of praise upon the results of my efforts. I cannot thank you enough for this, for it shows me that you care; it shows me that you are interested.

But the writing of history, in particular, involves varying degrees of research. Fortunately, I have assembled quite a collection of documentary resources, sometimes with the help of people who know of my interest in history, and are glad to pass on information and the odd artifact or two. Once again, for this I tender my heartfelt thanks.

Back in 1996, the first year I was on the Brookfield Historical Commission, I took special note that a "Historic Source List" had been begun by the members on April 1, 1995. Six sources for Brookfield historical reference were revealed, and by June 1996, 13 documentary sources comprised the list. They ranged from simple pamphlets to address directories, books volumes of old village board minutes and the old Suburban Magnet newspapers on microfilm at the Brookfield Library.

They seemed quite a worthwhile project to me, and I, as the "new kid" on the commission, waited to see what new sources would soon be added. To my dismay, as of May 1997, the same 13 sources were listed in the Commission's Annual Report. But I bided my time.

On May 27, 1998,  I was in charge of typing up the Source List, and hesitantly added a 14th source, the Gross School Centennial history book. I was testing the waters. No one dissented.

A number of items listed were also in my own private historical collection, so I began including my own name as a source. But I wasn't happy with typing up "Stach" over and over again, so I created an acronym, CASHA, short for the "Christopher A. Stach Historical Archives."

Now there was no stopping me. Fully in charge of compiling the list, I added item number 15 on June 24, 1998, the booklet titled "How Well Do You Know Brookfield?"

 On July 14, 1998, the total of sources went up to 25, and by Sept. 1, there were 83 and by May 27, 2000, there were 90 sources.
Since that time, I had left the commission to pursue writing for the Landmark, but I did not stop adding to the list. Only now, the Commission Historical Source List became the CASHA Historical Source List. On May 30, 2002, 112 items of documentary history were printed, with additional identifying remarks, on 20 pages. Quite a jump from 6, or even 13. On May 22, 2004, I last updated my list, informationally, if not numerically.

In 1996, there were two address directories (1899 and 1906) and three telephone books listed (1924, 1928, 1936) a total of five. Today, while there are still only two address directories known, a whopping total of 77 telephone directories are listed. Also there are four business directories available for the years 1919, 1948, 1956 and 1985.

I have bored you with all this information to make this point: that historical research depends on such sources. Every bit of Brookfield history I have ever written has relied on these. And I am always on the lookout for more sources.

There are many items on my Brookfield History Resource Wish List. If you know where any of these are, give a call to the Landmark, at 442-6739, extension 3320, or leave me a message at buphues@wjinc.com. Heck, you could even leave a note for me at the Adult Reference desk at the Brookfield Library. As you might imagine, I'm in and out of there all the time.

OK, here's what I'm always looking for.

Telephone books with Brookfield listings from the year 1923 and before. I know Illinois Bell books existed as early as 1913, but I have never seen one of these. Also, phone books with Brookfield numbers from 1943, 1944, 1946-1952, 1957, 1959-1975, 1985 and 1987-89. I don't care what condition they are in; they are good genealogical sources. But remember, they must have Brookfield phone numbers in them.

Old Brookfield and Grossdale newspapers (once again, in any kind of condition.) Do you have any old Grossdale Magnets cluttering up the basement? What about Grossdale Vigilants, Grossdale/Brookfield News, Grossdale/Brookfield Independents or Brookfield Stars? Just about any Brookfield paper, especially from 1894-1913 and 1915-1917 would be greeted with open arms and wide, joyful eyes.

Any old junk Sears, Wards, Penney's catalogs you just want to get rid of, to about the late 1970s. You'd be surprised how much you can learn from flipping through the pages of these.

Photos. You can never be sure how interested other people might be in your old photos. You may not think they're anything special, but whatever's in the background may be very interesting to a historian.

Speaking of old photos, a few years ago, a man called me up all excited, saying that his brother had just found some glass negatives of old Grossdale scenes, and I said, yes, that I was certainly interested. Since that time, I've called him three or four times, and have had to wait, for some reason or another. It makes me wonder if there ever were any such things, or if maybe the brother accidentally broke the plates, and hopes I will forget about them. Oh, sure.

Then there is a category that I call "miscellaneous." I am always hoping a 1933 40th Anniversary of Brookfield Pageant Script will turn up. This was held at Gross School in November of that year, and I know almost nothing about it. In fact, if you have any information about the 40th Anniversary Celebration at all, I would be glad to hear it.

Coincidentally, if anyone has a script (or photos) from the 1976 Bicentennial Pageant, I'd like to see that, too. It might make a great article. By the way, I do have a copy of the Diamond Jubilee Pageant Script from 1968, with photos, so no worries there.

Say, if you don't want to just give any of these things away, I can always take notes, or make copies and return the originals. But think of it as doing a public service. Any of these wanted items could end up as an article, or as part of one in the Landmark, and you would be credited for providing the sources.

I await your hopefully generous response.

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