Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category


December 15, 2019

This past week a lovely comment appeared on the Anne Fox, Teacher Extraordinaire in District 54 blog post that was published this past June. It was from Laura J. McMahon who said that she had “just hung an ornament on my Christmas tree that Miss Fox gave me 60 years ago this month when I was in her first grade class at Blackhawk (December 1959). Blackhawk had just opened that summer for a quick and late kindergarten for those of us entering first grade in the fall.”

In response I asked her to send a photo of the ornament so that I could post it on the blog in some way. As you can see in the photo above, she obliged with a wonderful picture of the 60-year-old ornament. She also added: “I have very fond memories of her… Miss Fox taught me to be curious and instilled in me a love of learning.”

How many of you have an ornament or holiday decoration from your District 54 days that you still display at this time of the year? Maybe it was given to you or it was a craft that you did in art class or in your elementary school classroom?

If you have some type of District 54 holiday decoration that finds its way out of storage every year, send a photo to me at I’ll create a blog post of all of the items I receive as well as the story behind them. It’s bound to be a great variety!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


June 16, 2019

Colfax Township is located in Champaign County, south and west of the Champaign-Urbana metro area. It is rural, filled with farm fields and, today, home to about 250 people. It is where Anne Fox was born and where she is buried.

She came into the world on September 10, 1904, the third of seven children of Daniel and Margaret (Junkersfeld) Fox. Anne was sandwiched between the two oldest, Edward and Marie, and the four youngest, Earl, John, Helen and Ruth .

In 1926, at the age of 22, after teaching in Champaign County, she followed her sister, Marie, to Schaumburg Township and accepted a job teaching at a one room school in Schaumburg Township. Anne noted in later documents that the sisters took inspiration from two of their aunts who were also teachers.

For the next seven years, until 1931, Anne taught at two different schools. She began at the District 51 School on Higgins Road (seen above) that was alternatively called the Meyer School or the Sunderlage School.

According to a Herald article from March 19, 1967, she then spent four years at the District 52 School (seen above) on Plum Grove Road that was alternatively called Maple Hill School or the Kublank School. The article said that “the social aspect is reported to have been almost as important as the salary since she was invited out two or three times a week.”

An April 1967, District 54 newsletter, the Reporter, shares a few of her details of teaching in these schools. Miss Fox recalled, “I wanted a piano for our school, so we sponsored a dance in old Schaumburg Center to raise the money…. Some of the winters were hard in those days too. I can remember being driven to school in a farmer’s sleigh. They were kind to me and heated bricks for me to put my feet on in order to keep them warm.”

Young, single teachers of this time period often lived as boarders at the homes of nearby families. Anne was no different. In the 1930 census she is reported living with the Louis and Emma Kastning family on Plum Grove Road, just north of Higgins Road. Maybe they were the family who took her to school in a sleigh?

Her older sister Marie taught 3rd through 5th grades in the 1920s and 1930s at the one-room Schaumburg Center School on the northwest corner of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads that is seen above. In fact, a Cook County Herald article from March 1, 1927 states that “Misses Marie and Anne Fox spent Friday evening at the home of John Homeyer.” According to another Herald article from March 19, 1967, the two sisters were known as “Miss Marie” and “Miss Anne.”

In a Herald article from April 28, 1967 Anne said of her one-room school years, “In those days, the school was the center of community life, so naturally I grew to know my students’ parents well. Perhaps this was one reason why my past students were always anxious to finish their daily work.”

In 1931 Anne moved to the District 41 Lindbergh School (seen above) on Shoe Factory Road. For the next 17 years she was the sole teacher of grades one through eight in the school. According to her obituary, it was also, in this same year, that she moved to Villa Street in Elgin, living with her parents who moved to the area from Champaign County.

When the school district consolidated in 1948 with the Bartlett schools, she returned to Schaumburg Township and took up her duties at Schaumburg Center School where the enrollment was 18. The article from the March 19, 1967 paper says that she taught first and second grades until the one-room schools were consolidated in 1954.

From 1954 to 1957 she also taught first and second grades at the newly built, Paul Schweikher-designed, Schaumburg School on Schaumburg Road. She was then assigned to Fairview School where she served one year as a teacher-principal.

According to the April 1967 District 54 Reporter, “the next year, when administration would have become a full-time job, Miss Fox decided in favor of the classroom. ‘I want to be with the children.” For the remainder of her career she taught first grade at Blackhawk School on Illinois Boulevard.

During this time School District 54 honored Miss Fox for her many years of dedication and excellence in teaching by naming their new school in the Hanover Highlands as the Anne Fox Elementary School. The school opened on September 5, 1967 and was the first school in the district to be named for a living person.

Wayne Schaible, superintendent of District 54 said, “There are few people in Schaumburg Township who are so important a bridge between the past and the present, and through all these years Miss Fox has maintained a high standard of educational excellence. This gracious lady is worthy of being recognized by the community which she has served so faithfully.”

Miss Fox continued with the district for three more years, retiring in 1970 after a 46-year career. In her last few years she served as a demonstration teacher, guiding new teachers in the district through the successful methods she incorporated in her teaching style. As Mr. Schaible said in the Herald’s March 19, 1967 article, “The only problem I have had with her…is that of deciding who would be privileged to be in her class and consoling parents whose children were not so fortunate.”

Miss Fox retired at the age of 65 and intended “to enjoy my home” and do some traveling. Unfortunately, in six short years she passed away on April 19, 1976. While services were held at St. Mary Church in Elgin, she was buried at St. Boniface Cemetery in Colfax Township in Champaign County. She is surrounded by her parents, brother Earl and infant sister.

Though Anne Fox began and ended her life in Champaign County, her great impact on the children and schools of Schaumburg Township was immeasurable and lives on in the school named for her in Hanover Park.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

The top photo of Miss Fox is used courtesy of the Schaumburg School District 54 Reporter.

The photo of Anne Fox Elementary School is used courtesy of Wikimapia. 



February 17, 2019

Last week we posted a series of photos from a small booklet that was published for the tenth anniversary of Hoffman Estates. The 1969 booklet was titled “Community From Cornfields.” This week we’ll continue with photos that are centered around some of the District 54 and District 211 schools, and a few of the larger retailers that opened in Hoffman Estates during its first ten years.

Blackhawk Grade School opened in 1958. It was the second school built in, what would be, Hoffman Estates, following Twinbrook Grade School. A history of Blackhawk School can be found in an earlier blog posting. It closed in 1976.

Lakeview Grade School opened the following year in 1959–the same year the village of Hoffman Estates was incorporated. It was built in Parcel C and is on Lakeview Lane. An earlier blog posting discussed the farmhouse that can still be found directly west of the school. Clearly, the site was optimal for both the house and the school.

Winston Churchill Grade School opened on Jones Road in 1965 to serve the children of the Highlands subdivision.

Helen Keller Junior High opened in 1967 and was the second junior high in the district, following Frost Junior High. By 1969 the school district’s offices had moved into trailers next to the school.

Conant High School opened in 1964 and was the first secondary school in the township to serve students who lived in both Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg. Fremd High School (the insert) opened in 1961. All Hoffman Estates students north of the tollway attend Fremd.

This wonderful photo gives us a bird’s eye view of the first Jewel that opened in Hoffman Plaza in the summer of 1959. It was a much needed grocery store for the new residents of Schaumburg Township.

With that iconic water tower behind the grocery store you can tell that the orientation of the shopping center faces south towards Higgins Road. You can also see a barber shop off to the left with other stores in between. Maybe some of you can identify what they would have been in 1969?

If you know Hoffman Estates history at all, you recognize this building as the Fireside Roll Arena which opened in 1975 after the booklet was published. This is actually its predecessor, the Magna Mart department store, that was built for this location and opened in May of 1968.

Their advertisement in the May 3, 1968 paper said that they had 52 departments that included: clothing, home furnishings, electronics, paint, jewelry, records, sporting goods, patio, family shoes and a snack shop to name a few. They did not last long and seem to have closed their doors sometime in 1970 or 1971 as there is nothing in the paper beyond February 1970. Does that sound correct?

Last, but not least, this gem of a photo captures three businesses that were the heart and soul of early Hoffman Estates.

The brick building to the left is the Thunderbird Theater which opened in 1966. The business in the center of the photo is Grant’s, a one-stop shop department store for the entire family and, off to the far right is the National Food Store. Both Grant’s and National opened in the Golf Rose Shopping Center on October 17, 1963. By the time this photo was taken in 1969, they were fixtures and had been there for six years.

What a wonderful discovery this booklet has been! Next week you will have a chance to take a quiz on the churches of Hoffman Estates. This time, I’m leaving the identifications all up to you!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


August 26, 2018

Are you interested in a few more photos of opening day at Woodfield? How about football practice at Schaumburg High School from 1971? Well, the Daily Herald opened up their archives and allowed us to take a look at a selection of local photos. Check them out here.

The Woodfield photos are largely of celebrities Carol Lawrence and Vincent Price who were on hand for the festivities on September 9, 1971. The first photo shows the two of them surrounded by other dignitaries that included Mayor Bob Atcher, first from the left in the photo above, and Al Taubman who is second from the left and was the developer of the mall.

Vincent Price was on hand because Sears Roebuck & Co. had recruited him to lead an affordable art program that they had implemented for the public. Price was an art collector himself and purchased much of the art that Sears sold and even commissioned artists such as Salvador Dali to create art for the program. If you’d like to read more about Mr. Price’s involvement with Sears, check out that blog posting.

But, why was Carol Lawrence there? The best we could figure is that, not only was she from the Chicago area, having been born in Melrose Park, but she and her husband, Robert Goulet, were also performing at the Mill Run Theater in Niles the following week from September 13-19. Would there have been another reason they tapped her?

Notice all of the people in the background. These could be local residents, future employees and/or construction workers. Woodfield was not completely finished on opening day so anyone and everyone who was around would have been interested in taking a look at the celebration. To read more about Woodfield Mall’s opening day, check out this blog posting. Or, if you’re interested in what was there before Woodfield, check out this blog posting.

As for the football photos, you can find them at the bottom of the page. Schaumburg High School had opened the prior year in 1970 and it is evident in the photos. Not only are there open spaces as far as the eye can see, but there is also no foliage–tree, bush or otherwise–that had yet to be planted around the building. If you were part of that photo or were one of those first SHS students, please let us know if there’s anything we’re missing in these photos.

Local history is always enhanced when older photos become available. Not only do they trigger memories but they help fill in the gaps in our history. A big thank you to the Daily Herald for sharing them with us!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


July 22, 2018

Until the start of the spring semester of 1954, the public school children of Schaumburg Township had been attending one-room schools. The two remaining schools of the five one-room buildings that had once been sprinkled throughout the township, were the District 54 School at Schaumburg and Roselle Road and the District 51 School on Higgins Road near Huntington Boulevard. They are shown below.

In 1952, however, these school districts consolidated into School District 54. On December 20 of that year a special election gave the Board of Education approval to purchase and construct a school site for the district. The school board then chose a site on the north side of Schaumburg Road, just west of Plum Grove Road.

By March 26, 1953 when an article ran in the Roselle Register regarding the Cook County Circuit Court’s validation of the formation of the school district, the school board had already commissioned local resident and architect, Paul Schweikher, to design their school. “The plans for the new school building are well along so that with the favorable court decision the prospects for a modern school for Schaumburg are now almost a certainty.”

A later article of April 30, 1953 stated that “Mr. Schweikher is still drawing up plans for the new building, to cost $150,000.” He must have been a busy man, scurrying to get these plans finalized, as this was near the time that he was departing the area and his architecture practice to take the role of Chair of the Yale University Architecture Department. Interestingly enough, his son Paul attended the one room school at Schaumburg and Roselle until their departure.

The following photo, compliments of William Engler, is of the groundbreaking of the school which must have taken place in the spring or summer of 1953. Mr. Engler’s father was one of the trustees. From left to right are:  John Bierman, Frank Wiley, Al Straub (behind William Greve), William Greve, Herbert Buesching in the dark framed glasses, Emil Lichthardt, Paul Engler, and Henry Hartman.

The 1953-54 school year began with the students of District 54 divided between the Sunderlage School (formerly District 51), Schaumburg Center School (formerly District 54) and the Elk Grove School. By this time, Robert Flum had been hired as the school principal and was fulfilling that position as well as teaching at the Sunderlage School.

At the end of the fall semester students were instructed to take their belongings home with them in preparation for the opening of the new school. It was expected to open at the beginning of the spring semester but a delay occurred because of a local plumber’s strike and the fact that floor tile had not yet been received. [Daily Herald, January 7, 1954]

A couple of weeks later, on January 18, 1954, Schaumburg School opened. Around 80 students were now consolidated in a modern four classroom building with proper equipment and supplies–and indoor plumbing! Some of the teachers were Mr. Flum, Miss Anne Fox and Mrs. Paulus. Grades were doubled up in the school with the majority of the students enrolled in grades 1-4.

In viewing the building, it is obvious that Mr. Schweikher used Roselle School as a model for Schaumburg School. It is built in the same linear, one-story style with the four classrooms in a row and a slightly offset chimney in front that can be seen in the photo below.

The differences were the windows, the style of the chimneys and east and west walls, and the fact that the play/assembly area in Roselle School was two stories.

Where Roselle School (pictured above) had floor to ceiling windows with staggered framing, Schaumburg School had large windows that were framed without mullions.

The chimneys were also decidedly different. Roselle School’s chimney was rectangular and brick. Schaumburg School’s chimney is comprised of field stones which, in my impression, were liberated from piles of stones that Mr. Schweikher must have seen in various farm fields of Schaumburg Township. He added these same stones on the east and west sides of the building. It was a nice, local tribute to the farms he was surrounded by. The chimney still exists today as do the walls that are now contained within the building.

The play/assembly area in Schaumburg School was single storied and, judging by the Hedrich Blessing photos of the school, appeared to be adjacent to the front desk. The reception area consisted of one long desk and an open office area behind. The assembly area was opposite the desk. Open ceilings and open shelving could be found throughout the rooms of the building.

This incredibly modernistic building in the middle of a field was the swan song of Paul Schweikher’s time in the area. It was quite a difference maker for a school district that was used to one room schools with rudimentary tools and equipment.  And, even though the school was quickly added onto, we are fortunate that elements of his design still exist.

The next time you’re driving past District 54’s headquarters on Schaumburg Road, take note of that stone chimney and stone wall. Not only are they part of Schaumburg Township’s rural history, they are also part of our modern history. This unique school, in fact, ushered in an educational era for a township that was only just beginning its phenomenal growth.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

The photo of the District 51 school is compliments of Marion Ravagnie.

The photo of Roselle School is compliments of the Roselle History Museum.

The last photo is compliments of the Paul Schweikher Collection at Arizona State University.




July 15, 2018

Before he left Schaumburg Township in 1953, architect Paul Schweikher did a couple of lasting favors for two local school districts.  Roselle School District 12 and Schaumburg Township School District 54 were both in dire need of new schools for their districts.  Roselle’s population had increased after World War II and Roselle Public School at Park and Pine was way over capacity with 176 students. Schaumburg Township had recently consolidated their districts into one district for the entire township. With only a couple of one-room schools in Schaumburg Township to accomodate the students who were part of the public school system, a new, modern school was desperately needed.  Enter Paul Schweikher.

On December 1, 1951, the citizens of Roselle passed a referendum approving the construction of a new school. The school board must have expected a “yes” vote because, according to a November 30, 1951 article from the DuPage County Register, the architectural firm of Schweikher & Elting had already been commissioned and provided plans for the new building. The school would “consist of four classrooms and a play assembly room” and the building would be of “fireproof, brick construction with plenty of light, and designed to harmonize pleasingly with the residential character of the community. According to the school board, this building will also provide a needed place for civic and community affairs, a civic center, for all the people of the community.” (A health and staff room were also part of the plans.)

The already composed plans were also mentioned in a letter to the editor in the December 14, 1951 paper. Mrs. Douglas Fowler who was president of the PTA states, “Our organization would like to thank you for your cooperation in our recent campaign for a new school.  As your paper will probably announce on another page, the issues were settled by a landslide.”  She also states, “Schweikher and Elting designed a beautiful school, and received their share of our thanks.”

Later, in a public notice in the April 11, 1952 paper, the Roselle school district put out a bid for proposals for construction of the school.  Instructions for the proposals could be examined at the office of “the Architects, Schweikher and Elting, Meacham Road, Roselle, Illinois…” They would make copies available for a fee and checks would be paid to the order of the architectural firm. Eventually, in a June 20, 1952 article, it was announced that the E.W. Sproul Co. of Chicago had been “selected as the general contractor at a maximum price of $155,820.” Excavation work had, in fact, already begun and the building was expected to take six months though it did not open until February or March of 1953.

Built into the side of a gentle slope at the corner of Maple, Howard and Pine, the school’s site had been previously purchased from the village of Roselle. The building was described in the June 20th article as “the design is of modern architecture and the structure will be brick with large window areas on the north and south sides. These, with other innovations, will provide the maximum in natural lighting benefits.  A wide circular drive connected to Maple Avenue will provide access to the canopied entrance of the building.”

Unfortunately, we do not have a professional photo of the finished product. The building was L-shaped with the classrooms and offices running parallel to Maple Street and the large play/assembly room running perpendicular. You can see this design best in the Roselle Register photo which shows the back of the school. The play/assembly room is bricked and to the right in the photo.

Windows covered the entire south wall to the left, with each classroom having its own exterior door. You can also see these features in the following photo from the Roselle History Museum. Notice the skylight in the ceiling. Tom Troyke, Facilities Manager for Trinity Lutheran Church, the current owner of the building, said that the skylights had a louvre over them that probably allowed the teachers to direct sunlight into the room as they saw fit. 

The best photo of the front of the building is seen below and comes from Mr. Troyke. The cars in the foreground are on Maple Avenue and the front of the school and the circular drive is to the right. Notice the massive, rectangular chimney and the offset windows on the front. Chimneys are an important component of many of Schweikher’s designs–including his own house.

And, we can’t see it, but the east wall of the gym was made entirely of glass!

Five years later, in 1958, the school was added onto once again because the student population was continuing to expand in greater numbers. By this time it had been renamed Parkside School as seen in the photo at the top from Joan Beauprez, the historian of the Roselle History Museum. The addition was built adjacent to the play/assembly room which was probably bricked up at the time when the stage was most likely added. Eventually, over the years, the chimney was taken down, the skylights and original large boilers were taken out and the interior was redesigned. But, if you take a look at the Google aerial of the building–which is now the Trinity Child Care Center–you can see that the original L lines of the building are still intact. You can also see it here in the back of the building.

Schweikher was likely involved in the entire building process for the original design given that his office was so close and that potential contractors went there to get specifications for the proposal. His cutting edge design was certainly unique for this small town, even though this was the advent of the era of single level schools. Still, a school building that was largely windows on three sides? That is not something you see every day.

Interestingly though, the designs came in handy just a couple of years later when Schaumburg Township District 54 approached him about their new school. Read about that project and Schweikher’s last contribution to the Schaumburg area in next week’s blog. It’s an interesting comparison!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

My thanks to Tom Troyke and Joan Beauprez for their sustained interest and support in researching this school.  Without them I would not have had a tour of the building or photos that helped solve some of the mysteries.  Their passion for their hometown was remarkable.



May 27, 2018

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

In early March I learned that School District 54 had decided to tear down Twinbrook School.  Twinbrook School was the first school built by F & S Construction when they began developing our village.  The school was located on Ash Rd in Parcel A where the first homes began going up in 1955.  Parcel A is situated south of Golf Rd and north of Higgins Rd, directly behind Hoffman Plaza.

The name Twinbrook came from the fact that the village was located between Poplar Creek to the north and Salt Creek to the south.  Early on in our village history many residents wanted to change the name from Hoffman Estates to Twinbrook but the majority won, much influenced by Jack Hoffman who didn’t favor a name change since so much had been invested in the name of Hoffman Estates.

Our first school opened in 1956 and was ready for the children of the new home owners of Parcel A.

Over the years the school was well utilized.  After the school closed to regular classes, it was used for many other children.  Preschoolers and special needs students were enrolled in classes and an addition to the school that would have some open concept classrooms made it easier.  It was lastly put into use as a storage facility.

Time took its toll and any plans to renovate were considered too costly. Sadly, it was decided that the building would come down.

With grateful permission from District 54, I was able to go inside Twinbrook for one last visit.  I had my camera ready to take pictures of whatever I thought would be memorable for the history of our village.

As I started down the first hall, I noticed the cheerful ivy mural that had been painted on the wall of the water fountains.  Had it made the students smile?  Around the corner the hall was cluttered with items that would be cleaned out before the take down.   As I walked down the hall I saw something that tugged at my heart.  It was a small red ball. I wondered how many children had played with that ball.  I took a picture.  Going into the gym I saw an American flag on a small stick that had been tossed up into the netting by, I’m guessing, some mischievous student.  I took a picture.  My last stop was in the school office where the intercom stood silent with wires pulled from the wall. I took a picture.

I knew that the children had been long gone from the building but it seemed as if you could still feel them laughing and running in the halls.

I went back on March 19th to take pictures as the school was being torn down.  It was sad to say goodbye.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian


May 21, 2018

The Schaumburg Township Historical Society will sponsor its annual open house of the Schaumburg Center School on Memorial Day weekend.  The open houses will be held May 26, 27 and 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Constructed in 1872–and first called Sarah’s Grove School, it is believed to have been the first of five public schools in Schaumburg Township. It was later renamed Schween’s Grove School and called Schaumburg Centre Public School until 1954. For 82 years, the building served as a one-room schoolhouse, and was the last active one room schoolhouse in District 54.

With the widening of Schaumburg Road, the building was saved from demolition and temporarily placed on the grounds of the Town Square Shopping Center in 1979. It was permanently relocated to the St. Peter Lutheran Church property in September, 1981. It has been fully restored as a museum and is under the auspices of the Schaumburg Township Historical Society.


March 11, 2018

The fifth public [one room] school in Schaumburg Township was located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Rodenburg Road with Wiese (Wise) Road [as seen on the topographical map above.]  The approximate one acre of land was taken from the southeast corner of the Hartmann farm, which was previously a Kruse farm.  This school was also referred to as the Straub School, but the reason is unknown.  The school closed its doors in [1940.]  It fell into disrepair with vandalism and an unkempt school yard.

An article, Only Two Public Schools Remain in Schaumburg, from the May 17, 1940 issue of the Cook County Herald states “…According to G.C. Butler, assistant county superintendent of schools, in charge of division one, school district 55, known as the Hartmann School, will not open next year.  There is one family in the district which will have children of school age, who would attend the school.  Other children of school age attend an adjoining Christian day school.  District 52 has been closed several years.  The two remaining schools in the township are district 51 with ten pupils and district 54 located in Schaumburg center…”

[The photo above shows the teacher and her students outside of the school around 1922 or 1923.   In the back row the two boys are Erwin Stump and Henry Busche; the second row middle boy is William Busche and the boy on the right is Emil or Art Hartmann.  The bottom left girl is Florence Catherine “Kate” Bell who lived on Stratford Farms at Wiese (Wise) and Roselle Roads.]

Richard Gerschefske purchased the school building after 1954.  He dismantled the structure and recycled the useable wood to build an addition on the District 51 School that he purchased and moved to Schaumburg Center.  This extension to the Meyer/Sunderlage School became the kitchen and dining room for the house.  The combined salvaged schools became a comfortable private residence that is still located in Schaumburg Center…

The text for most of this blog posting is an excerpt from Schaumburg of My Ancestors by LaVonne Thies Presley, published in 2012.  The book is an in-depth look at Schaumburg Township around the turn of the nineteenth century.  

Her particular focus was the farm off of Meacham Road where her father grew up.  However, LaVonne also took the opportunity in the text to create a detailed examination of the formation of the public one-room schools of Schaumburg Township.  In the upcoming months a posting will be shared on each of those five schools.  But, first, an introduction to the formation of Schaumburg Township public schools

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library



December 31, 2017

Talking local history with the locals is always a learning experience.  I discovered that once again when I was recently speaking to Schaumburg Village trustee Jack Sullivan.  In the course of our discussion, he talked about attending Frost Junior High School in the 1960s and how the students could buy their lunches from a series of vending machines.  With what I’m sure was a puzzled expression on my face, I said, “Do you mean like an automat?”  Turns out, that’s exactly what he was talking about.

Having never heard that story before, I did some research and found a great article in the Hoffman Herald on August 6, 1964.  Interestingly, Robert Frost Junior High was actually the testing ground in the Chicago area for this style of lunch.

When it opened for the school year in 1964, Robert Frost Junior High on Wise Road was the first school built specifically as a junior high for the fast-growing, burgeoning District 54.  One of the challenges for the new school was serving several hundred students during relatively short lunch periods.

Of course, many students inevitably brown bagged their lunches, but the school district was looking for other options as well, and that’s when Barrington Vending Machine Co. stepped in to offer them an interesting solution.

The company agreed to install machines that would include “coffee (!), hot chocolate, tea and soup, a cold drink machine, an ice cream unit, a candy and pastry unit, a hot canned foods unit, a cold sandwich and salad unit, a hot sandwich unit and serving units with spoons, napkins and condiments.”  Milk would be provided by a dairy that supplied the other schools.  Frankly, for young students in 1964, this had to have seemed pretty cool.

The article noted–and remember, this was August before school started–that they were still considering the rationale of making coffee and candy available for the students.  This would have been especially pertinent given the fact that the purpose was to make a balanced meal available to the students for less than .50 a day.

Frost Junior High was expecting 800 students in the new school and they were planning to incorporate four lunch periods into the day.  The food would be fresh every day according to the contract with Barrington Vending, and a part time staffer would make sure that all of the machines were kept stocked during those lunch periods and make change for the students.

During the writeup of this blog posting, it was not possible to determine how long this vending machine food service ran but in a January 27, 1966 article it was mentioned that milk, candy and soft drinks were being dispensed through vending machines.  Further, it says, “…vending machines were placed in Schaumburg and Robert Frost Junior High Schools as a service since students remain in both schools during the lunch period.”

According to Ray Hallett however, who was a long time teacher at Frost Junior High, the school was doing split shifts of 6 a.m.-noon and noon-6 p.m. in the 1969-70 school year so there would have been no reason for a lunch period.  He and another commenter, Diana Dobrovolny, also thought they did split shifts a year or two prior so it seems that the vending machine lunches lasted only a couple of years.  This was confirmed by commenter, Marty Oliff, who said that the Frost/Keller split shift happened in the 1966/67 school year so lunch would not have been necessary for that school year either.

Thus, it appears that the Automat-style vending machine experiment lasted from the time Frost opened for the 1964/65 school year until the end of the 1965/66 term.  Because of the massive influx of students, lunch was essentially unnecessary in the junior highs until the split shift years were over.

In yet another Hoffman Herald article from September 16, 1969, it appears a company called Mass Feeding Corp. had taken over the contract and was supplying “the pre-packaged, pre-frozen hot lunch program” at District 54 and other school districts.  So, some type of vending machine service was still being used in some of the schools.  One has to suppose this was the junior highs but maybe other readers might be able to confirm this for sure.

If you’re one of those who attended Frost Junior High and took advantage of the vending machines that supplied your lunch, we would love to hear the types of food they had, how much you paid for various items and how long the program lasted.  District 54 was not only on the cutting edge in education but in lunch services too!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library