StoryCorps: Jerry Turnquist & Helen Childs

Helen Childs grew up in Elgin and attended Wing School during the Depression. Her husband was part of the student strike in 1935 to protest the treatment that teacher T.A. Larson was receiving. Now there is a school named after him. Elgin was known as the dairy capital, the city of churches and known for the Watch Factory. Helen and her husband worked at the Watch Factory as did many Elginites. There was a staff of 3000 people and it was like a city of its own. The tools needed to make the watches had to be manufactured at the Watch Factory. It even had its own magazine “The Watch Word.” Each department had its own reporter who would write about the happenings of the staff in his/her department. The Watch Company existed from 1888 until 1966. It never transitioned to battery watches, and also faced competition from cheaper, imported Swiss watches. “Circle of Time” is a documentary about the Watch Factory. Other memorable events in Elgin were the visits by John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

Enjoy other Elgin residents' stories in the StoryCorps Collection