Christmas sparks recollections of Carol Stream's earliest days

Published12/23/2009 12:15 AM

There have been many articles this year about Carol Stream's 50 years as a village.

With the holidays upon us, though, there are still a few more memories to share of Christmas celebrations past.


Carol Stream was incorporated in January 1959 with newcomers from near and far. The homes were attractive and affordable enough for young families.

Jay Stream's subdivision sat amid the cornfields until several years later when the village saw another big growth spurt that brought my family to town.

We celebrated our first Carol Stream Christmas in 1977 as residents of the newly developed Western Trails subdivision. Along with other Erie Court transplants, including my brother and sister-in-law, John and Karen Casale, we were all about holiday decorations, especially outdoor decorations.

I remember giving my brother $10 and asking him to pick up as many decorations as possible while shopping at the closest store, which was at least four miles away.

I would have shopped but, at the time, my daughter Joanna was only 6 months old and son Mike just turned 6. I didn't want to chance traveling through the snow drifts on Kuhn Road, which at the time was our only main access.

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Most of us strung lights around our windows and door frames because there was little or no landscaping to decorate. Plastic Santas, snowmen, reindeer and flood lights in various colors dotted our front lawns.

Within a couple of years we started one of many neighborhood holiday traditions, including a visit from Santa, made possible through a Carol Stream Park District program.

When Santa arrived at our home he found on the front porch presents to be distributed to the neighborhood children who were awaiting his visit. They were thrilled with his appearance and in awe he knew all their names.

Our neighborhood holiday party went on for years, and I don't know who enjoyed Santa's visit more - the kids or parents.

Several years before our family's move to Carol Stream, Gerald and Marion Hay, with their two young sons, moved into their Silverleaf ranch home.


By the time Christmas rolled around, the Hays were settled in and ready to get into the holiday spirit.

However, when it came to holiday shopping they had to travel to Wheaton or other distant places, even for groceries and to get their mail.

One of Marion's fondest holiday memories was when she entered the village's decorating contest. Next thing you know, "butcher paper was covering most of my living room floor and everyone had to walk around the edges," she said.

At last her creation - a painting of the Madonna - was carefully hung on the garage door. It's no surprise Marion won that year's contest, for which she was awarded a $25 bond.

Marion fondly recalled when the family headed to midnight Mass at St. Luke Church only to find the power out. Mass was not canceled, however. The cars in the parking lot left their lights on for people to find their way into the church and other cars parked on the front sidewalk to light the inside of the church.

"Once you got inside the candles provided the light," Marion said.

Joe and Gerry Bird moved to their new Tomahawk Court home in April 1959. Recently married and excited about the birth of their first child in November, the Birds' first Christmas was one of their most memorable.

"We were thrilled," said Gerry of their new life in this new village.

According to Gerry, outdoor decorations were scarce in those days.

"They didn't make much for outdoors," she said.

However, the men of the neighborhood did get together to string lights from home to home and each home's light post sported either a red or green light.

The men decorated and the women did the baking.

"We baked more cookies then you can imagine," said Gerry.

There were plenty of goodies to go around for their holiday gatherings, which included visits to Wheaton, where both sets of parents resided.

Norman and Lynn O'Dell, along with their young son, moved into their Yuma Lane home in April 1960 and have lived there ever since.

"It's a great neighborhood," Lynn said.

Norman was very creative, so he set out to make some holiday wood sculptures that Lynn helped complete. Plenty of lights, plus a sleigh, train and other wooden decorations, dotted their lawn during their earliest village holidays.

"Norm won the decorating contest a couple of times," Lynn said.

"The people really embraced the idea of decorating their house," Lynn said. "It really drew the community together."

Lynn recalls when Norman, a volunteer on the village fire department, played Santa for the department's family Christmas party.

"Our kids never knew Norm was Santa," she said with a chuckle.

Actually, Norm played Santa for the Carol Stream Woman's Club fundraisers, too.

Jim and Carole Ellermeier, with their young son, moved to Carol Stream's Covered Bridges apartments in January 1975, and shortly after moved to their first village home on Tomahawk Court.

The Ellermeiers became involved in the community right away.

"Our neighborhood became our family, so-to- speak," Carole said.

The holidays often found neighbors enjoying coffee and desserts with each other.

"Cookie exchanges were really big in our neighborhood," she said. "There were lots of cookie exchanges."

The Ellermeiers especially looked forward to their annual trip to Oregon, Ill., where they would stop at the Sinnissippe Forest to cut down their very own Christmas tree.

"The kids would run through the trees and play hide-and-seek," said Carole.

As tradition had it, when they returned home with their tree it was placed in the front window.

Santa, aka Don Daebelliehn, a well-known former village resident, visited their home, too.

"The kids thought this was pretty cool," Carole said.

Each Christmas Eve the Ellermeiers took a tour through the village to hunt out the many decorated homes. One of their favorites was a house on Idaho and Flint that featured a computer-generated light show and the upside down tree hung from the living room ceiling.

As years passed, the Ellermeiers hosted Madrigal Dinners during the holiday season. They and their guests dressed in costume and enjoyed many of the traditions.

It's no wonder Carole said, "This village is a fantastic place to live."

Of course, I could go on and on about our beautiful village and this beautiful time of the year, but now it's time your family creates its own memories and traditions.

No matter where you live and how you celebrate your holidays, have the merriest ever!

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