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article number 92
article date 01-05-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Sidney Illinois, World War I Hardship to early 1920’s Prosperity
by Virginia McElroy

From the book, History of Sidney 1827 to 1976.

Europe was at war. Prices soared. For the first time in history, corn reached the price of $2.00 per bushel. The United States remained neutral until U. S. ships were sunk by the Germans. War was declared and the country went all-out to win the war. Hysteria hit Sidney, as it did most of the country. Everything German was suspected and attacked. Two loyal citizens were forced to make an affidavit, stating their loyalty to the country, and publish it in the paper. These families were required to do more than others to prove their loyalty, such as joining the Red Cross and buying war bonds and publicly stating the fact. A young German man who was visiting in the community and his friend were forced from their car and made to kiss the flag of the United States.

Factories were converted to making airplanes, guns and ammunition. M. E. Dunlap of Madison, Wisconsin, the husband of Mary Lawson, a former Sidney girl, invented an aluminum paint that was used on airplane propellers, so they could be shipped overseas without warping. Mr. Dunlap had a security guard during the war. Herbert Hoover was in charge of food supplies and their distribution. Mondays and Wednesdays were wheatless days and at one meal each day of the week no wheat was to be served. Tuesdays and Saturdays were meatless days, with no meat served one meal each day of the week. People willingly obeyed this plan, as they felt it would hasten the day of peace. The following doggerel verse appeared in the paper:

My Mondays are wheatless,
My Tuesdays are meatless,
My pants are seatless,
My socks are feetless.
Oh my! How I hate the Kaiser

There was a coal shortage in the community due to the lack of coal cars to haul it from the mines. People who had teams hauled coal from mines around Danville for themselves and for the community.

War bonds were sold and Sidney went over the top on each bond drive. The Post office sold $36,200 worth of war stamps. A Red Cross organization rolled bandages and knit sweaters, gloves and socks. Anyone who didn’t participate in these activities was counted as a disloyal citizen. The young men flocked to enlist and went off to the war singing. Bryan Cole said he was delivering groceries when his friend, George Boone, stopped him and told him he was going to enlist. Mr. Cole said for him to wait until he took the horse to the store and he would go with him. They boarded the train to Danville and enlisted.

Plaque at Sidney Illinois, Town Hall.

After the war Sidney soon returned to normal. Some of the young men returned to take up their old jobs, but many left the community to seek jobs in the cities. Prosperity continued.

Some new businesses were added in the village. J. 0. Woodard built a garage north of the intersection of Main and David Streets. H. H. Shelby opened an implement shop, and Mrs. Mitchell arid Mrs. Bates opened a dressmaking shop. The Woman’s Club opened a library in the home of Mrs. F. B. McElroy. A book could be borrowed for two weeks for ten cents. The Electric Theatre moved to the Town Hall. The Sidney Motor Company was opened for business. S. J. Moffitt sold his business to H. M. Bentley. Mr. Bentley had owned the store in 1912 but had sold it and moved away. He must have drank from the town pump for he came back and bought his old drug store.

A newspaper of the 1920s described the country as follows:
“There were movies, jitneys, jazz bands, cigar bands, ukuleles, frats, fifty cent haircuts, two-bit shaves, silk shirts, low necks, all-the-way backs, jazz poetry, problem plays, tea wagons, the flu, appendicitis, wireless, sugar shortage, coal shortage, skirt shortage, silk hose, jazz clothing, the shimmy, wrist watches, electric lights, $10 lunches, sixteen cent carfare, $100 suits, cement sidewalks, cafeterias, $3 wheat, six-hour days, cold storage, daily bath, $18 shoes, manicures, anti-pass laws, war tax, teddy bears, pajamas, apartments, traffic cops, Jamaica ginger, golf, joy riding, taxicabs, plucked eyebrows, tight skirts, soft collars, rubber heels, electric signs, bridge, whist, sport shirts, skyscrapers, I. W.Ws, divorces, Vaudeville, lounge lizards and reformers.”

This mentions the many things that were going on in the country at this period of history. Prosperity continued. Business grew and new businesses were started.

A fire destroyed the lumber yard in 1920. After the war Howard Smith went into the Philo Bank and Fred Lovingfoss moved to Sidney and took over the management of the Hazen and Franks lumber yard. He continued to manage it until it was sold to Louis White in 1965.

Corn was donated to the people starving in Europe. Twenty-seven carloads were collected by the Farm Bureau in Champaign County. The committee from Sidney Township consisted of C. C. McElwee, Howard Love and E. J. Anders. The school children took up a collection to send to the starving children. Probably there wasn’t a large amount of money, but the spirit of giving was there.

In 1921 a new fire engine was bought by the town. The town raised $200 to help the village buy oil to put on the streets. The names of the boys who served in the war were placed on the front wall of the Town Hall as a monument in their honor.

Sidney’s first fire engine. Left to right: Fred Wood, Mayor, Karl Aufdenkampe.

A tag-day was held to buy uniforms for the band. Most everyone in town proudly wore their green tag and the band had the money it needed.

John Cole opened a store in Broadlands and the stores in the village went on a cash system. In 1922 there were several moves among the business men. M. S. VanBrunt leased Cyrus Everitt’s garage and moved there from the building two doors south of the alley on David Street on the east side. The Eaton grocery moved from the Knights of Pythias building, which is the first building north of the alley on the west side of David Street to the building they vacated. Cates and Owens bought the grocery business of Francis’ store and opened a grocery store in the building vacated by the Eaton Gro.

The KKK held a large meeting in Witt’s Park. There were two large advertisements inviting the public to attend and to learn the truth about the beliefs of the organization. A few people sincerely believed in the loyalty of the Klans to the United States, and others joined for the thrill and the enthusiasm generated by the leaders, but as soon as they saw the fear that a group of masked men caused in the community and the acts that were performed by unidentified men, the KKK died a natural death in Sidney. It was said 600 sandwiches and 1000 cups of coffee were served by a local restaurant the day of their large meeting.


C. J. DahI’s grocery store located at Block Station burned, but he rebuilt his store and operated it. He had an enclosed truck stocked with groceries that traveled over routes in the southern part of the township as late as 1925. The post office moved from the east side of David Street to a building three doors north of the alley on the west side of the street.

In 1923 Main Street was paved through Sidney. A siding was built by the railroad so that the supplies for the pavement could be shipped to the village, as it was near the center of the 1924 road construction.

Downtown 1926.

1924 proved to be one of the most important years in Sidney’s history. The hard road from the Philo Y to Homer and from Sidney to Longview and Block was built. The entire lives of the people were changed. The railroad lost its importance as a way of travel. The automobile was improved and people were able to go over the entire country more comfortably and quickly by car than by train. Passenger trains still ran each day and people going a long distance, or those without cars used that means of travel, but the day of train travel was beginning to come to an end.

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