StoryCorps: Jennifer Almanza & Jeff Meyers

Jennifer Almanza came to Elgin, Illinois from Ohio for her work with the telephone company in 1984. She found the people of Elgin amazing from day one. She did not find her job to be fulfilling so she took an early retirement. After her parents died in their mid-50s Jennifer traveled and tried to discover what role she could play in society that would give her fulfillment. She found it in social work with seniors. She has worked with seniors in the area ever since. However, unfortunately, due to suffering several strokes her work now is done on a voluntary basis. Jeff Meyers is a radio broadcaster. He grew up wanting to be a baseball player, and calling the games seemed the next best thing.  He remembers being part of the broadcasting booth during a White Sox game. He believes Elgin is such as great place because it has great sports, amenities, and a long history. 

StoryCorps: Mike Alft & Lew Gordon

Both Mike Alft and Lew Gordon served on the Gail Borden Public Library’s Board of Trustees. Lew Gordon was an electronics engineer who has devoted his time and effort to many fundraising and planning projects in the Elgin area. These include working on Walton Island renovations, serving on the Elgin Planning and Development Commission, and fundraising for books for a library in Tanzania and cardiac equipment for Sherman Hospital. Mike Alft grew up during the Depression, and consequently moved around a lot as a child. This led to his deep interaction with books. Once he settled in Elgin, Illinois he worked as an economics teacher. He would continually keep notes about historical events or whatever he learned about a particular industry or group. Once he had enough notes about a topic he would write a book about it. He also wrote a column in the Elgin newspaper, The Courier-News, about local history, and served as mayor of Elgin.

StoryCorps: Betty Martinez & Jean Hebeisen

Betty Martinez came to Elgin by way of Florida from Colombia. Her studies in Colombia were in psychology, but noticing that so many people requiring help had special education needs, she did her post-graduate work in special education. Now she is a bilingual special education teacher in the Elgin area. Jean Hebeisen is from Chicago, and has lived in various areas around the Midwest. She has worked for an actuarial company, for a small-town newspaper and as a computer programmer. Both women love the Gail Borden Public Library and participate in community initiatives and events such as the Fine Arts Fair.

StoryCorps: Oscar & Laura Godinez

Oscar and Laura met while she was studying in Mexico. They fell in love and decided that they would get married and live in the United States. Oscar’s parents were against him marrying an American “gringo” so he left for the U.S. without saying what they intended to do. Immigration officials noticed he had a lot of luggage, and so called Laura and her family to find out what the true intentions were. Once they were married Oscar’s family quickly adjusted and accepted Laura and her family. Though Oscar studied English in Mexico, he had trouble understanding English as spoken in the United States. Despite this he did finish his education at DePaul University and had a successful job. They have now been married for 20 years.

StoryCorps: Roger & Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson (aged 13 at time of recording) was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5. The worst part was the spinal taps and not being able to walk. He did not tell other kids that he had leukemia because he thought they would think it was contagious and not have anything to do with him. Roger, his father, credits his faith for helping the family get through this. While having leukemia Sam did not think about it all the time except when he had to stay in the hospital for treatments. When he gets sick now his mom and dad worry that it might be a sign of something more. Sam enjoyed his trip to Disneyland from the Make a Wish Foundation, and looks forward to being 10-years cancer free.

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.

StoryCorps: Clare Ollayos & Nancy Lamia

Clare is a chiropractic physician who grew up in Elgin. Nancy is from Akron, Ohio. She was a teacher in Elgin and Dundee for 20 years, and then worked with Sears’ IT program to launch the Great Indoors stores. Both Claire and Nancy love the Gail Borden Public Library. 

StoryCorps: Boontiva Truong-Quang & Jeanette Via

Boontiva Truong-Quang is from Thailand of Vietnamese descent, and she owns and operates the Optima Health Yoga School in Elgin. Jeanette is an African-American woman originally from Arkansas who started the business Superb Office Services, Incorporated. Boontiva worked for many years for a large company, and though she received promotions and a good salary, she was personally unsatisfied. She traveled the world for 6 years and received a spiritual awakening in India. Jeanette assumed that her business would not be received well since she is an African American woman, but she contends that as long as your work is excellent and people can trust in you, people will want to work with you.

StoryCorps: Manuel Barbosa & Keith Brown

Manuel Barbosa was the first Hispanic judge in Kane County, and Keith Brown was the first African American judge in Kane County. Manuel Barbosa’s family emigrated from Mexico, and worked as migrant laborers in their first years in the United States. Keith Brown’s father was a WGN radio presenter. Both have had experiences of racism and prejudice which has encouraged them to work for justice and equality.

StoryCorps: Jennifer Ford & Sarah Hudgens

 Jennifer Ford talks about her role as volunteer coordinator at the Gail Borden Library and they both share their passion for volunteering.  Sara Hudgens, known as “The Peter Rabbit Lady”, talks about her passion for Beatrix Potter and the role the library has played in her life.   Sara helped start “Reruns”, the thrift store supporting the Crisis Center.