Thursday, February 29, 2024

You've Come a Long Way Baby! Leap Year Day in Aurora!

Leap Year Day 2024 is here! Ready to go out to propose to your crush?? No? Yes? Hopefully you’ll get a resounding YES!!

You’re probably sitting there thinking, “What the heck are you talking about Tracy?? You need to get back on your meds again!” Nope! This was actually a thing back in the day, as we "old folks" say (or almost there “old folks” haha!)

"Time to take your meds Tracy!"

Back in the day having a woman in charge of things, even proposing marriage, was more of a novelty than anything, 

In 1932, City of Aurora Mayor Conrad M. Bjorseth and the city council were trying to help the citizens of the city get out of the depression fatigue. According to Mayor Bjorseth, "Only a few weeks ago, this town, like many another of it's size (50,000) was at the breaking point. We didn't know what to expect. Nobody trusted anybody. We were depression fatigued. We were on the verge of having community hysterics."

He and the council had decided, in order to ease the tension, they declared a one-week moratorium on all businesses. Everything was closed except stores that sell absolute necessities. They asked the people to rest and to think, to take courage, to have faith. After several days, confidence had returned, to an extent. Even though after the week was done and everything was back in business, there was still that trepidation of the situation of the world during the Great Depression. 

Mayor Bjorseth, his council and owners of local businesses had gotten together and came up with a fun idea. Why not have the ladies in charge of things for Leap Year Day?  They wanted to bring laughter back into the city. So, as a joke, they decided to announce in the Beacon News that they were planning on having the eligible ladies (between the ages of 18-27) to run the city and "arrest" the local bachelors.

Once they interviewed the ladies, they tallied down the ones that they thought would work best for different leadership roles such as Police Chief, Fire Chief, City Council Aldermen and Mayor. They would then announce in the newspaper the ladies that would be voted for by the public to hold the top-notch positions. The other ladies that applied to be a part of the event would work as the "Petticoat Council" or the "Powder Puff Brigade". There were also ladies that would help manage the local shops too, in place of the male managers. 

Leap Year Day Ladies in Charge!
February 1932 - Beacon News Aurora, IL

The first ladies to be in charge were Miss Dorothy Ward, Police Chief; Ruth Cole, Fire Chief and Mildred Pratt, Mayor of the City of Aurora. It was noted in the February 1932 Beacon News that Paramount Pictures and Fox Pictures were bringing in their film crews to film the special day for the newsreels. Guess what..... I found it! It's a lot of fun to be able to see and hear the ladies as they take over the City of Aurora. I added in a bit of "then and now" in this too. Enjoy!

So, back to the ladies. Their day was filled with fun and laughter as they nabbed all sorts of "bachelors" that were trying to run away from them. They would be taken back via paddy wagon to City Hall when it was at the area near Downer Place and Stolp Ave. The men would have to plead their innocence to no avail. They would have to pay a fine (the money would go towards a charity) and also would have to pay for either a box of chocolates, dresses or nylons!

As Mayor Bjorseth stood at the city hall steps watching and laughing while watching the girls direct traffic and running street sweepers, he beamed, "Just look at the crowds and listen to them laugh! We started this idea of turning the entire city over to the girls for a day as a joke and now we realize that a day of laughter was just what we needed to put us on our feet again." ["Fair Maids Drive Depression from Aurora, Illinois"].

It was such a fun idea at the time, they decided to do the Leap Year switcheroo every Leap Year Day. They had to skip Leap Year Day 1944 since a good majority of the eligible bachelors were fighting overseas in WW2. The single men that were in town were either too young or too old. According to a Beacon News article from 1948, "There weren't enough men around to make it worthwhile."

In February 1948, George Skadding, Life Magazine photographer, was in town to take photos of the ladies hijinks. In the March 22, 1948 Life Magazine, on page 107, there are a few photos featured for that day. 

March 22. 1948 Life Magazine
Tracy Duran Collection

March 22. 1948 Life Magazine
Tracy Duran Collection
March 22. 1948 Life Magazine
Tracy Duran Collection

Of course, this is my page and you know how I need MORE information, so I sought out more of George Skadding's work and found a BUNCH more photos! Check these out!

Leap Year Day 1948
George Skadding Life Magazine

Hanging up the "unmentionables" at City Hall!
George Skadding Life Magazine

Leap Year Day 1948 Alderwomen
George Skadding Life Magazine

Eighteen-year-old Stella Seraphin ruled
the city as Mayoress! 
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Alderwomen inside City Hall
It's a nice interior shot of the Council Room!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Arrested at the train station!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

1948 Leap Year Day Fire Chief
George Skadding Life Magazine

One of my favorite shots... you can see
the folks in the back on the left laughing!
Arrested at the Broadway Train Depot!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine
Arrested at the Rathskeller at Leland Hotel!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Getting "arrested" in front of City Hall!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Chef from Leland Hotel gets "arrested!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Those bachelors will climb like wild cats!
Climbing the tower on Leland Hotel!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine
Pleading his case!
He's asked the ladies to marry him and they
keep saying no!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Bachelors taken away in the paddy wagon!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine
Uh-Oh! Traffic jam at Stolp Ave & Downer Place!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine 

Powder Puff Brigade!
On Downer Place in front of the now
David L. Pierce Center!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Resisting Arrest!!
At Lietz & Grometer on Broadway
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Bachelors taken to City Jail
in the Paddy Wagon!
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

Bachelors playing cards in the
jail bull pen waiting to be 
1948 George Skadding Life Magazine

February 29, 1940
Beacon News

As I was looking through all of the articles for Leap Year Day, I had found that one of the "Mayoresses" that was elected in 1940, Audre' Kesel Grometer, her son, R. Peter Grometer, who became the 16th Circuit Court judge and an Appellate Court judge from the state's 2nd District, has the 16th Circuit Branch Court at the Aurora Police Department on Indian Trail named after him! 

The Leap Year Day fun lasted up to 1984. During this time, it was debated that the traditional local holiday was "sexist" due to seeing women vying for marriage and working a male dominate job a novelty. Alderman Anne Baumann saw the tradition as a blight to women, since she believed that it was a "silly notion that a woman can ask a man to marry only one day every four years and there's the notion that that's all women care about." The other side of the debate came from Linn Stoner, who said, "I am 100 percent feminist, I am also 100 percent in favor of fun. I think it's all in fun. Many communities don't do this. I think it's fortunate to have a tradition, because many towns have lost them."

1984 Beacon News Article for Leap Year Day

So, what do you think? Should this still be a tradition, or do we have better things to do? I think it is all done in fun and nothing against the status of women. I can see the point of where women are seen as a minority sex and as being the "weaker sex" in this type of event. As Mayor Bjorseth mentioned in 1932 when this first began, it was all in fun and to have people laugh at a time when the community really needed some levity due to the events of the time period. Times change, as do the mindsets of folks, and we need to go with the wind of change. We can be lucky in this day and age that we have women officers, firefighters, city council members and Mayor without it being seen as a novelty.

1948 George Skadding Life Magazine
The only one in a skirt on Leap Year Day at APD!

Friday, November 25, 2022

1st Presidential Visit to Aurora, IL 1903

 Back in June 1903, Aurora had its first visit by a presiding U.S. President. 

Clipping from the Aurora Daily Beacon
from the Aurora Public Library
Emma and Robert Wegman History Room

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States (Oct 27, 1858-Jan 6, 1919) was traveling around the United States and visiting different towns. He was visiting Aurora before heading off to Joliet, IL. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Sock it to Me???

Before he was President but after he was Vice President...

Another famous visitor to Aurora!

Yes, Tricky Dicky! 

A huge thanks to Dick Elliot, an awesome Facebook friend who has a wonderful memory of a lot of Aurora events. He had brought up in one of the Aurora history groups on Facebook that Richard Nixon had come to Aurora in October of 1964. So, obviously, I took on the challenge to go through the microfiche at the Aurora Public Library to see what I could find. Yes, I love doing "old school" research and go through all of the old newspapers there. 

Former Vice President Richard Nixon with Mrs. Eleanor Bentson, president of the
Aurora Republican Women's Club and Charles H. Percy, candidate for Illinois Governor
October 1964
Aurora, IL

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Sky Club in Color!!

 I've been holding on to a few photos that I had acquired of the Sky Club for a while. Why? Not sure. Mostly because I wanted to make sure that if anyone saw these photos, they knew it was from me. Selfish? Maybe. I'd like to think that with my love of history and especially the history of Leland Hotel and the Sky Club, the general public would know how dear these photos are to me. They take you back to a different time in Aurora, IL. A place in time when people took their time and were patient with things. A time when you could just.... relax. No stress, no deadlines, no constant working. Just work and you made sure you had time for fun. 

These days (in my perspective..) it's workworkwork.

So, come with me and let's go back in time for a moment. Let's have some drinks and some appetizers. Listen to the band. Maybe even dance a bit since the drinks are flowing.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I do.

February 1928 - Opening Day of Leland Hotel 

Entrance to Sky Club on the 20th Floor
Opening Day 1928 Leland Hotel

The Sky Club Ballroom 
Opening Day 1928
Leland Hotel

1940s Leland Hotel Sky Club Parties

Monday, July 25, 2022

When a Bond Girl Arrived at the Sky Club!

 When a "Bond" Girl arrived at the Sky Club!

Back on May 1, 1941, defense bonds went on the market. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the name was changed to war bonds. These bonds were available in denominations of $25.00 through $1,000 and were designed to be affordable for everyone. For 10 cents, people could purchase stamps, which were placed in special War Bond Stamp Books. 

1942 Defense Bond for WWII

Bonds helped to reduce inflation by redirecting demand away from consumer goods, most of which were in short supply due to the shift to wartime production and the decreased availability of certain strategic raw materials. The bonds decreased the likelihood of civil unrest by making the government a debtor to as many people as possible. But... you're not here to learn about bonds... you're here to see who the Bond Gal was! 

Sorry... it wasn't Plenty O'Toole... 
Granted Mr. Bond begs to differ.. 

Some of the famous Hollywood actors took it upon themselves to fight the good fight, such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Jackie Cooper.