George L. Busse

Does MPHS have photographs: Yes

Address in MP: 111 S.Maple

Birth Date: September 7, 1900

Death Date: June 17, 1991

Date:  June 4, 1922
Spouse: Hilda Rohlwing
Children: Louise, George R., Joanne

Interesting information on life, career, accomplishments:

George L. Busse, the son of George Busse and father of George R. Busse, followed his family line and was involved in Real Estate. The firm that eventually became George L. Busse Realty was originally founded as the Mount Prospect Development Association and was responsible for the first addition to Mount Prospect, known as Busse’s Eastern Addition. George L. Busse joined the firm in 1926 and extended the company’s reach. He ran the Mutual County Fire Insurance Company of Mount Prospect, subdivided a number of farms, built many houses and handled the sale of the land for both Randhurst and Woodfield Shopping Malls. He also worked with community groups, being involved with the Lions Club for many years, a founding member of the Mount Prospect Historical Society and school treasurer of Elk Grove Township for 27 years.

Presenter: George L. Busse and several unidentified speakers

Date: April 16, 1974

Program Length: 57 minutes

GEORGE BUSSE: Tonight we’re going to take you back to 1874, before Mount Prospect came into being. There was farmland owned by the Roone~s and the Birch families. Then Mr. Eggleston and George Rooney went into real estate partnership and subdivided part of the Rooney farm on August 24, 1874 and called it Mount Prospect. The reason they called it Mount Prospect is that it was one hundred feet above the level of Lake Michigan, and also the highest point in Cook County. They felt it had prospects for the future, so you had the name Mount Prospect.

Q: George Cooper, is it true that it is the highest point in Cook County?

BUSSE: Yes, that’s right.

Q: At what point in Mount Prospect is the highest point?

BUSSE: I think that’s Edward and Central. Between 1874 and 1896 the Mahlings and the Meyns and the Wille families bought some of this subdivision. In 1896 William Busse came to town and built his home on the southeast corner of Main and Busse where the Meeske Store is now. William Busse and his brother acquired most of the subdivision –I’m talking about Mount Prospect after they called it a subdivision then –and together with the Wille family, which owned some of the lots, we subdivided the lots they owned and called it Busse & Wille resub, a plat of which was recorded April 18, 1906. In 1906 there were ten houses and six business places. Of the original houses there are three remaining today: the Glaede house at 8 South Maple Street, the Fredericks house where the Webbs now live at 101 South Maple Street, and the house where Edwin L. Busse lives at 21 South Emerson Street. Of the four original businesses only the Willes are still here. I think I missed one house here –I think that’s Meyns house in that block where the donut shop is now. On January 15, 1912, Walter Mohrer Krause subdivided both sides of Emerson from Prospect Avenue to Lincoln Street. That was one of the first subdivisions. On September 10, 1950, fifteenth, Ernest Busse subdivided the parcel between Main Street, Elmhurst Avenue, Gregory, and Henry Street. In 1916 George Busse and his brothers bought the Rooney farm, and in 1921 they subdivided a small portion of it and later on up to Mount Prospect Road, in sections. Lots at that time sold for four hundred and fifty dollars, with ten percent down and the balance for whatever time it took to pay the balance –so much a month. Then when they had the lot paid for and they wanted to build a house, then we financed them and built them a house. ______ Busse ______. In 1922 George Meyer divided that part lying between Main Street, Pine Street, Prospect Avenue, and Lincoln Street. This was part of the Birch farm. On June 9, 1925, the Fred Schaeffer farm was divided by Axel Lonquist and called Prospect Park Subdivision. It included the property between Lincoln Street south to halfway between Shabonne and Council Trail, Elmurst Road east to the west side of Main Street –you know, where the curve is on. On March 30, 1926, H. Roy Berry Company divided the John Koch farm into H. Roy Berry Company’s Castle Heights Subdivision. It included land east of Main Street to Elmurst Avenue, and Highland Street to Hill Street. The John Koch house is still standing at 501 North Elmhurst Avenue and at one time was used as a clubhouse for the VFW club. I don’t know whether you knew that or not.

Q: George, there is another house standing there that one of the Bing families lived in.

BUSSE: Yes, we’ll get to that. We’ll cover that.

Q: George, I suppose you can bring in also the home that you lived in which, I think, is the oldest home, isn’t it?

BUSSE: Yes, but that wasn’t part of the original Mount Prospect, see.

Q: I see.

BUSSE: I should have put that in when they bought the farm there, but that carne later. All right, then April 26, 1926, another part of the Fred Schaeffer farm was divided into Prospect Highlands, covering both sides of Emerson Street to Lincoln Street to halfway between Shabonne and Council Trail. On May 18, 1926, H. Roy Berry Company divided the William Seegers farm into H. Roy Berry Maplewood Heights. This included land between Lincoln Street, Mount Prospect Road and Northwest Highway –that kind of a triangle there. On July 10, 1926, Axel Lonquist divided the Henry Muenching farm into Prospect Park Country Club. This included property from Elmhurst Road west to We-Go Trail, Lincoln Street to Lonquist Boulevard. The Muenching farm buildings were located in the block where the John Weber house is located.

Q: In the backyard and on __________.

BUSSE: Well, right in that block. I don’t know just whereabouts, but in that block. This subdivision, Prospect Park Country Club, it had four hundred and eighty lots, and everybody who bought a lot would get one-four-hundred-eightieth share in the golf course. That’s the way that was laid out originally.

Q: Is that when they built the golf course, at that same time?

BUSSE: Sure, at the same time. But everybody who bought a lot there had one-four-hundred-eigthtieth share in the golf course. Then later on Lonquist forgot to –he didn’t make the payments on the mortages for the country club, then they foreclosed it so then the lot owners lost their interest in the golf course. On July 15, 1926, Walter Krause, Jr., divided the Louie Kapps farm and called it Hillcrest Subdivision. This property is between Main Street, Elmhurst Avenue, Gregory Street, and Henry Street. The Louis Koch house was divided into two houses and remodeled, and they are located at 203 and 204 North Russell Street. If you ever drive out that way, it’s 203 and 204 North Russell. The original house was a big house, and it was divided into two houses.

Q: George, which Koch…

BUSSE: Louis Koch.

Q: …owned the house that I lived in and sold it to the Northwest Government? That was one of the Kochs.

BUSSE: That was Heindrich.

Q: Yes, that was one of the Kochs.

BUSSE: There were three brothers, Louie, Henry and John. And on October 26, 1926, Axel Lonquist divided the Bellendorf farm and the balance of Heindrich Koch farm into Prospect Manor Subdivision. This land is between Elmhurst Avenue, Forest Avenue, Highland Avenue and Northwest Highway. The Bellendorf house is still standing on its original location at 407 North Prospect Manor Avenue. If you ever drive by there, it’s 407. Mrs. Wilson, here. ______ looking for. Did you find it?

Q: The other half of the house?

BUSSE: No, the Bellendorf house.

Q: __________.

BUSSE: Yes, not all of it, no.

Q: __________.

BUSSE: I don’t know what became of the rest of it. There is only one part of it. On February 2, 1927, Bert Lautermill subdivided the Pullman farm into Mooneyside Gardens. This included land south of Evergreen, east of Owen Street, both sides of Williams Street to the Northwest Highway. The Pullman house is still on its original location at 221 South Owen Street and is now owned and occupied by Dr. Louise Koester. On June 15, 1927, Frederick Schaeffer divided the balance of his farm and called it Frederick Schaeffer Addition. It included land on the west side of Maple Street, from Lincoln to Mehlings Drive. That’s across from the park. August 2, 1927, Bert Lautermill divided the J. C. Mehlings farm and called it Lautermill Villa. That farm was your granddad’s, wasn’t it?

A: Yes, it extended over to the ________. But the house was built. It was burned down but it was rebuilt again. ___________ on the north, Emerson Street. I think they painted it red now. ________ one day and wanted me to come over and look at it.

B: Did you find beer bottles that were found in the walls?

A: Yes, she was telling me about beer bottles that were found inside.

B: It was when they were building it.

A: The Willes must have built this because it had something to do with Adolph Wille. He must have built that house.

B: He had a note in the bottle.

A: Yes.

B: She still has it.

A: Does she?

BUSSE: Included was land east of Main Street and west of Maple Street, from Central Road to Gregory. The Mehling house in its original location at 122 North Emerson Street.

A: That was burnt down. I remember my grandfather talking about it. He came off the train –he had gone into Chicago and saw the flames, and said, “That must be my house!” and sure enough, it was.

BUSSE: On April 2, 1928, Axel Lonquist laid out Lonquist’s Northwest Hills Subdivision, which was land on the west side of Can-Dota from Busse Avenue to Lincoln Street. On August 14, 1929, Albert Pick & Company divided part of the John Russell farm and called it Central Woods. It contained land between Central Road, Prospect Avenue, Lancaster and Kenilworth Avenues. On June 24, 1932, Henry Ehard divided the point bounded by Central Road, Elmhurst Road and Northwest Highway. That’s where the Winkelman’s gas station is. On June 24, 1932 H. Roy Berry Company divided the Burke farm into Colonial Manor, beginning on the west side of Pine Street to both sides of Wa-Pella, from Prospect Avenue to Lincoln Street. The Burke house stood on the west side of Hi-Lusi about a half block south of Central. On November 20, 1945, Axel Lonquist divided part of the Albert Froemming farm into Lonquist Gardens, containing land between Elmhurst Road, Wa-Pella Avenue, Lonquist Boulevard and Golf Road. The Froemming farm buildings were located where the Lutheran Church of Martha and Mary is now located. This brings us up to 1950. After that there could be an explosion. That takes a lot of time to set that all up. Here are some statistics: In 1906 there were ten houses and four business places. Population in 1910 was 35; in 1920 it was 349; in 1930, 1,225; in 1940 it was 1,720; in 1950, 4,009. The following improvements were put in: The first water system was installed in 1921; in 1926 sewers were put in, and then by that time the streets were tore up so bad we had to pave them; in 1927 we paved ten miles of streets.

Q: What did you say the population was in 1910, George?

BUSSE: In 1910, 35.

Q: And then, George, when the paving was put in the owner of the lot was assessed five hundred dollars.

BUSSE: A little over five hundred dollars.

Q: Yes, _________ five hundred dollars. _________ was not enough.

BUSSE: And the sewer, I guess, was two hundred fifty-seven.

Q: I _____________.

A: Mr. Busse, what was our –we’re in the 400 block of North Emerson –whose farm was that where the Presbyterian church –there was a barn that sat right on the sidewalk.

BUSSE: That’s the John Katz farm. They lived in that brick…

A: The parsonage?

BUSSE: Yes. First they lived on Emerson Street, 501, in that frame house, and then when they sold the property they built this house on Main Street. I guess they use it for a parsonage now for that church up there.

A: Gee, I would like to have a copy of that. Will you run some more off?

BUSSE: I made a couple of copies, yes.

A: You know, George, I think I have a book at home. You probably have that ______ book –you know, it’s a great, big book like this. When you turn the pages it tells the subdivisions.

BUSSE: Yes, I have one of the copies. I brought some pictures along.

B: You will give us one for our historical file, won’t you?

BUSSE: Yes, I’ll give you one. Here’s a picture of Mount Prospect. This must have been the original scheme. This plat was never recorded. You can pick them up and take a look at them.

A: Couldn’t they read it? Was that the trouble?

BUSSE: What?

A: They couldn’t record it?

BUSSE: No, they didn’t record. This is the way they shot it off, see, and then they changed it around. Then I have a blown-up section of Elk Grove Township here for you. It gives all the landowners of the old farms around here before all these subdivisions came. This is, I would say, about 1927 or 1928.

B: Whose farm is where I live now, 400 South Hi-Lusi? Can you find that on there?

BUSSE: That was already subdivided in the country club section.

A: Was it Muenching?

BUSSE: Yes, originally it was the Muenching farm. Henry Muenching.

A: The house was located ________. The foundation is still there.


B: George, do you remember the name of the subdivision streets they originally were going to call –you know, we were talking about one day downtown. One of the _______, and I thought that was _________.

BUSSE: The only two streets that remained the same were Elm Street and Maple Street of the originals.

B: But didn’t they have…

BUSSE: Main Street was called Center Street. Emerson was Broadway, and then going east came Maple and Elm and then North Avenue.

A: Who put the curve in Route 83 at Lincoln?

BUSSE: Well, you know, years ago they used to, if you took Elmhurst Road straight out north you went across the railroad track like this, see, on a hump. You eliminate that hump. When automobiles got more plentiful, that’s when they curved it around there.

A: Oh. What year?

BUSSE: Oh, I forget what year ________ when they built that. But years ago when we used to come to town we used to drive across that hump. It was just a short –like that, you know.

B: It was similar to Mount Prospect Road, too, _______ over there. Mount Prospect Road had the same thing.

BUSSE: Yes, they had a hump there, too. How many of you people might remember Dick Friedrichs, a painter and decorator? When he came to town and built a house ______ town ________.

A: What year was that, George, do you remember? What year was that house built?

B: 1905.

BUSSE: It must have been because _________. This plat was recorded in 1906 and showed an easement for _______. If you want to come up and take a look at it ______ make a copy _______the original _______. That’s when they went up to Owen Street.

A: Is that _______ of today or ______?

BUSSE: No, that’s ______ the old names. _______ on Center and Central Road was Carpenter. Elm and Maple were the only ones that remained the same. We had an Ashland Avenue over there. That’s where Williams Street is now. ______ Pine,

that’s Elk Grove Avenue. I don’t know why they made these twenty-five. These are twenty-five and the rest of them are all fifty-foot lots.

B: They would have to be.

BUSSE: No, that’s the way ________.

B: Yes, with all that land.

BUSSE: Yes. I don’t know why they made them twenty-five. _______ Chicago for having twenty-five-foot lots, originally.

A: All along the curve on Route 83, that was all twenty-five-foot lots.

BUSSE: Right where the Catholic church has their parking lot, that was all twenty-five-foot lots. That was supposed to be business.

A: If that parking lot hadn’t been built they could have built houses on twenty-five-foot lots there.

BUSSE: They had an idea to build row houses there.

A: Yes, and there is nothing that could have stopped them.

B: Oh, good grief!

BUSSE: So, come up here after a while and take a look at these. We’ve got another little item here that Mrs. Bittner gave me. You know that triangle where the jewelry store is and donut shop? A: We’ll find it on the map here, if you’ll give me a minute. BUSSE: Yes. That’s the block right here. That was sold for taxes way back in –1882 they redeemed it, that block. It was four dollars and eighteen cents it took to redeem the back taxes on it.

B: I believe Ripon College owned the section, didn’t they?

BUSSE: I think that’s the block, probably, that they owned. I don’t know. I couldn’t find anything in my records that showed that Ripon College had, but I’ve heard it mentioned.

A: The island of Manhattan, wasn’t that purchased for a bunch of beads from the Indians –the whole island of Manhattan in New York?

B: Wasn’t the Koch house considered the edge of town?

BUSSE: Which one?

B: The one out on Main Street?

BUSSE: Oh, yes. For a long time there was nothing around there.

B: ______ thirty-one, on the south. That was Main Street.

BUSSE: There was nothing around there.

A: Civilization.

B: On Main Street. Was it near the Presbyterian –you know where the Presbyterian. .

C: Oh, the red brick.

B: It still stands, that brick house.

C: Red brick on the front.

Q: George, who put in all the water mains and hydrants in that area, east there, on part of the Koch’s farm? I guess it was all laid out and sidewalks even put in, years before anyone built. And then Brickman built, didn’t he?

BUSSE: No, Bluett built there on the John Koch farm.

Q: No, I mean at the end of what is now Elmhurst Avenue, up there. That was all, when I came here twenty-six years ago. They were just starting to build out there.

BUSSE: Yes, but everything was in there. Sewer and water was installed.

Q: Yes, it was all in there, and some of it had been put in years before.

BUSSE: Oh, yes, sure. In 1927 they built all the paved roads, about ten miles, and then the _______ improvements were in.

Q: Then those assessment bonds became worthless.

BUSSE: You could buy them for about ten or fifteen cents on a dollar. A lot of people didn’t pay their assessments, you know, where the vacant lots were in these subdivisions. There were a lot of unpaid taxes.

B: That was because of the Depression.


A: When was the train station built?

BUSSE: This train station, this new one, when was that built?

B: Oh, I don’t know the year, but Ben Turperman, when he was the superintendent he’s the one that opened the station. It was brand new, the one that we have today. He was living in Mount Prospect so he didn’t like to get on the train with an ugly station, so he had a brand new one built.

A: The rest of you don’t know, but Ben Turperman was the general superintendent of the Northwestern Railroad.

B: Head of the Chicago & Northwestern.

A: Yes. He lived out here. That’s how we got the new station.

B: He lived right off of Elmhurst Road and, what was it, Shabonne?

B: Shabonne and Pine.

BUSSE: Does anybody have any questions? I’ll see if I can answer them for you.

B: Well, can you tell us a little bit more about the old homes. Now, what you were ________ probably _____.

A: Didn’t the Willes build most of the homes?

BUSSE: The Willes.

A: The Wille brothers, and they were carpenters.

BUSSE: They were carpenters.

A: People, if they wanted a house built, why, they could call them.

B: Which Wille brothers were they?

C: Christian was one, and Edwin…

A: Edward?

BUSSE: I _______ Chris ______. Yes, and then before them their father was in the building business, too.

A: Now, George, you were related to the first president of Mount Prospect.

BUSSE: Yes, that was my uncle.

A: Who owned the farm near the end of Hi-Lusi, near the railroad tracks?

B: You mentioned it in your talk __________-.

BUSSE: Originally, the Burkes.

A: When we first moved to Mount Prospect we lived at 14 Hi-Lusi, and our son was about three years old and it was all vacant property for a whole block. There was no other house on our side of the street. One day he was out playing with the little boy behind us. __________, and here they were jumping up and down on some boards and rocking on some stones. “Look, Mother,” he said, “you can’t hear it for a long time before it drops.” I was just about _________ station, so I said to him, “There must be an old, abandoned well or something here.” They had just thrown some old planks over it and some dirt, and it was all rotted. It just was about where 16 and 18 Hi-Lusi, about there, on the Burke farm.

BUSSE: Somewhere in there, where the Burke house was.

A: Right. So one of them went to the phone and called the mayor ________.

B: __________.

BUSSE: See, years ago they used to dig them by hand –a great, big round. …A lot of them were brick

A: Well, anyway, they came over, and it was dark by this time. They carne over with flashlights and, believe me, the next morning I can’t tell you how many loads of dirt went in that. But those two little boys were _______ because they were jumping up and down on those rotted planks, so they never would have found them. They never would have known what happened to them.

C: You never would have thought of that.

A: No, we never knew there was a well there. The neighborhood then was gettting filled up with lots of little ones.

Q: George, where was the dump found? Wasn’t that near the railroad, about Wille and Pine where they ran up the railroad tracks?

[Side 2]

A: Yes, I was ___________ as the pastor was then teaching school when I started here. We put our skates on at an exit to his basement. I got on that school there that was just east of School Street, then we skated to the railroad tracks. We walked across the track and we got on the remainder of the creek that ran down, the Willer Creek, and then we skated from there to Arlington Heights. Willer Creek wasn’t dug out at that time. It was the natural flow of the river, you know. It was a creek, it was just shallow.

B: Did any boats ever launch in Willer Creek?

A: No, there wasn’t that much water.

B: Talk about skating, Frank, I went by your hardware store today and I see you still have the sign on the front door, “Skates Sharpened.” Do you get much business these days in that?

FRANK: Is it still on there?

B: It’s still on the front door.

C: It’s not going to freeze tonight.

A: You folks _______. There is a skating rink in the immediate vicinity here. There is one at Randhurst and one at Woodfield and ________.  ________ sharpens skates because of that.

B: Oh, that’s right. I’m sorry, I’m corrected. I thought Frank was just prolonging the skating.

FRANK: We don’t do it there. We farm it out.

A: You’re talking to an old skater. I just skated last December.

B: Aren’t you going to appear in the…?

A: ________ asked me to, but I don’t know.

B: I understand the Cougars are looking for a new right winger.

A: Well, there used to be a little pond that we skated on ______.They used to also skate right there at the old water –the underground water tanks. They used to have a place there that used to flood every year.

C: By the old Jewel, on Northwest Highway.

BUSSE: The village flooded that and made a skating rink there.

A: __________ and they used to skate.

B: The fire department flooded that. We had more people from Arlington Heights there than we had our own people.

C: I remember that because I was in charge of the committee on the village hall as trustee before the park board took over the parks. These kids would just call me day and night, wanting to know when the skating rink starts. I don’t know who gave them my name, but anyway, I was plagued with skating. Then they built a backstop in the park, and then the neighbors would complain and I’d get that on my shoulders, too –“Are they going to let them play ball there?” That was before the park district took over the parks. It was the village that had to run that recreation. I was mighty glad when somebody else had that headache. I always told them it was better to play in the park than to be playing in the streets. Some of the parents didn’t think so.

Q: When was the park district formed?

C: I’m trying to think –it would be about twenty-two years ago.

Q: _________.

C: Yes. It started with a postcard survey. It set out to move –met up at the village hall, interested in starting a park district. They sent out cards and made kind of a referendum to see whether they wanted a park district. Ned, or do you remember, Roy?

ROY: Yes.

C: And then the park district.

A: Didn’t that have something to do with the manner in protection of the hoodlums running the golf course?

C: That was before. The park district was organized before that came. Then these people purchased it from Stokeleys and they couldn’t get a liquor license. I know I was sued for one hundred thousand dollars because I wouldn’t give them a liquor license. Judge Lapp threw it out of court. They never got their liquor license, and then the park district condemned it then, as they phrased it, and purchased it for the appraisal price. I think it was a little over a million, wasn’t it?

B: Something like that, yes.

C: Yes, a million. Here they’re talking about this Rob Roy they bought eight million dollars for. But we got this property. It became park district property. I think it was one million, two hundred thousand.

BUSSE: Of course, you’ve got to figure, too, you’re about twenty years’ difference.

C: Yes, I know.

BUSSE: The price has gone up.

C: So has the price of bread and everything else.

A: Oh, yes.

Q: Who had the original undertaking business in town? Was it Friedrichs?

BUSSE: He was the first one, yes.

C: He was the first.

A: Was it at that same spot where he is now?

BUSSE: Yes, otherwise it was Arlington Heights or Des Plaines.

C: No, it has been there a long time. Any other questions for George? If not, we’ll adjourn and have our coffee and cookies. We certainly appreciate, George, your coming here. I know that out of this, too, we’re going to get some very interesting documents for the historical society. I do want all of you to try to watch out for things that will be of great value someday, and if we lose them today we’ll never have them tomorrow. We hope that we can get a proper resting place where the public can see these, one of these days.

B: Maybe George can tell us the way property has gone up from the beginning of Mount Prospect __________.

BUSSE: Well, you can take these lots that I said were selling for four hundred fifty dollars. Today you can get thirteen, fifteen thousand for them.

A: For an average lot, huh.

B: Were those improved, too? Did they have sewer and water?

BUSSE: No, at that time they didn’t have sewer and water.

B: They were unimproved, huh?


A: And your homes in town, are they going for a much higher price?

BUSSE: Oh, yes.

A: What are homes going for on the average?

BUSSE: Well, you can’t find much for less than thirty thousand. There were thirty thousand __________.

C: And that’s just a starter.

BUSSE: Those little houses that Bluett built in that section off of Rand Road…

C: Yes. We just annexed that a few years ago.

B: Yes, but what did they used to sell for, eleven thousand?

BUSSE: When they built them they sold them for eleven, five, and now they’re selling for around thirty thousand.

C: ______________.

B: Well, if there are no more questions, thank you, Mr. Busse, very, very much. It was a lot of work to this, all of this, and we’re all going to benefit from it. Thank you.

BUSSE: You’re welcome.

BITTNER: …whether it would be appropriate that someone to review that that has been written in connection with Mount Prospect _______. They have copies of my letter to prove the location _______, possibly, as a historical site, and older homes that have been in this area. There are a lot of people that ________ in connection with historical fact, and I think that this would be a valuable addition because the _________.

A: _________ and then make an application _______ get a grant from the state bicentennial commission to the historical society for establishing an historical. I don’t know the way the wheels of government go. It may be quite a struggle, but we’re hopeful that we get the money. We will work closely with the bicentennial commission established by the village board in 1976 because there are many things then we will have. We’ll probably have a gallery ______ and make a profit on that towards the _______. All of these things are in sort of a state of limbo right now, but they’re being worked on and we hope that something will come of it. Let’s have some of Doris’s good coffee and cookies. She baked cookies all day long. You know, George, hasn’t sold any houses all week because he has been working for a week, writing this speech.

A: I’m going to talk about Santa Claus, and at the present time no other holiday on the calendar is so universally celebrated and filled with so much meaning as Christmas. All over the world Christmas has always been the hope of peace and goodwill to men. Christmas Day was celebrated by the church for the first time three centuries after Christ’s birth, on various dates. It was not until the year 354 that Bishus Liberious, a grown, set December 25 to celebrate Christ’s birthday. However, there are still some countries who use the old style calendar which is thirteen days behind ours so that their Christmas falls on January 6. For many, many years Christmas was kept only as a church festival, and it was observed by religious services only. But as Christianity spread the people began celebrating with merry-making, as well as with religious observances. By the sixteen century and seventeenth century, great feasts were given during the Christmas season, with singing, dancing, and a great deal of gaiety. The celebrations in England became so wild that the spiritual meaning of the holiday was little observed, and this caused the English Parliament in 1654 to pass a law abolishing Christmas on the calendar. Consequently, the English in Massachusetts Bay Colony here in America in 1659 made the observance of Christmas a prison offense. This I never knew. From 1659 until the law was repealed in 1681, Christmas was not allowed to be observed in America. Not until about 1822 when Clement Moore of New York City wrote the poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” that round, fat, jolly, old elf with a sleigh full of toys and drawn by eight tiny reindeer, did the celebration of Christmas return to its gaiety. They always celebrated Christmas in church as a church service, but not in a silly way. St. Nicholas was always pictured as a kindly saint, and it was through the Dutch settlers from the Netherlands in America that other Americans first heard of him. The Dutch pronounced his name San Nicola or Sinter Claus, and in time the children here in the United States pronounced his name Santa Claus. This St. Nicholas was a real person. He was born in Lisha, Asia Minor –that’s southwest Asia –in the third century in the time of the Emperor Dioclacian. He was a Roman emperor that lived –in the year 284 he was born, and he died in 305. Nicholas was persecuted for the faith and kept in prison until the more tolerant reign of Constantine. St. Nicholas later became the bishop of Merz, and many countries have honored him by naming and dedicating their churches to him. The custom of gift-giving carne about partly because of the many legends concerning his generosity. The most famous legend was that his secret, surreptitious bestowal of dowries upon the three daughters of an  impoverished citizen who, unable to procure fit marriages for them, was on the point of giving his daughters up to a life of shame. This story is said to have originated the old custom of giving presents in secret on the eve of St. Nicholas, subsequently transferred to Christmas Day, and then, also, because of the story of the wise men who carried gifts to the baby Jesus. Many stories about St. Nicholas spread throughout Europe, and these stories have become legends. During the Reformation the spirit of St. Nicholas was transferred to the jolly character. In France he is called Papa Noel; in Germany, Held Nichol; in Dutch, Sinter Claus, and in Sweden he has a mysterious julklaf who delivered unexpectedly and unannounced by flinging open a door, throwing in a gift done up in many wrappings, and it was always difficult to find the actual object. In England he was called Father Christmas and was known as an old –very old –gray, bearded gentleman who visited the rich and the poor. When Christmas was banned in England, Father Christmas was driven underground. Yes, he did continue to exist, but with the reign of Charles II, Father Christmas returned in triumph with stories of his being a night rider in a sleigh drawn by reindeer and descending the chimnies with gifts for children everywhere. He was once known as Oden who rode his eight-footed horse called Budner, bringing rewards and  punishment. In Germany St. Nicholas was portrayed as a boy chosen from a church choir to act as their bishop until the Holy Innocence Day, December 28. This was a serious duty, and he served the church as an ordained priest during this time. Also in Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and Austria, St. Nicholas was represented by a man in mystical robes who appears on Christmas Eve to preach a short sermon and have the children recite their catechism before he would distribute the presents. And he was supposed to arrive in Spain, riding a white horse with a black servant carrying gifts, and he always seemed to know the children’s recent misdemeanors. If a child had been bad there would be talk of the servant putting the child in his pack and carrying him off to Spain. Of course, somehow this never did happen, but after the conversation ended he would always distribute the presents without further alarm. In Bavaria St. Nicholas was attended by a boy dressed as a girl who was called Nicolo Weebol with twelve boutonmonmon. The boutonmonmon were young men dressed in straw with animal masks or skins over the heads and large cowbells tied about them to make terrifying noises. This group would visit homes with the bishop, making a short religious speech, and the Nicolo Weebol would distribute the gifts. When they would leave the boutonmonmon, the twelve men, would fall upon the young people with shouts and blows which are to bring good luck, and offer to let the idle workers and the ones who misbehaved to have them shape up and be good. Elsewhere in Europe St. Nicholas was accompanied by St. Peter or the archangel, Gabriel, or by the knight Ruprecht. Ruprecht’s origin is obscure as a gift-bringer, but he would often come alone and wear skins or straw with a fierce appearance, and in some districts was called Ruclaus, or rough Nicholas, and when the first Germans went to Pennsylvania he went with them and is still remembered as Bels Nichol, servant of St. Nicholas. In Spain it’s the three kings who bring the presents. Children put their shoes out on the window sills for the kings to fill them as they ride past. Straw is also left for the benefit of the horses. In Italy a female spirit, Sephana, is of important, uncertain lineage, and is the gift-bearer. Little is known about her. She is pre-Christian. Naughty children are warned that she will carry them away and eat them if they do not reform. It is celebrated with processions, bonfires, and much blowing of trumpets in the streets. In France it’s Father Christmas, and the infant Jesus is the one who fills the sabat overshoes left on the hearth on Christmas Eve. Letters are left on the window sills for him to read, and a table is set between the Christmas tree and the open window with soup plates, one for each child, and in the morning these plates are filled with fruit and sweets and presents that are piled on the table. Christkind has come and gone with no one seeing him, and the baby Jesus has a human representative in the rather unexpected form of a girl wearing a candle crown like the Lucia queen of Sweden and carrying a silver bell in the hand, a basket of gifts in the other hand. She is called Christkind. She bears little resemblance to the holy child, for not only is she the wrong sex and age but is accompanied by a figure from the demon past, the terrible demon Hanstrop who is dressed in a bear skin with blackened face and threatens all naughty children with his wildly brandished stick until Christkind intervenes and saves them. For many of these stories we can determine the origin of our Christmas customs and the symbols we see today at Christmas time. Thank you. I would also like you to notice, this Santa Claus here, this is made by Vic Bittner. Do you remember making him?


A: Don’t you? You made two of them, one for Craig and one for Barbara when they were about two and four years old. My husband had him under a tree. He’s sort of thin. He always looks like _______. But Santa Claus would bring Holly.

B: That’s to remind you not to expect too much.

A: Well, thank you. Maybe some of you are reminded of some of these stories about Christmas and the names of Are there any questions?

B: I wanted to ask Maida if she would show us some of her…

A: Yes, would you, Maida?


A: Explain all of your pretty, little ornaments.

BITTNER: Well, this was brought from Germany _______, “Silent Night,” and this we brought from the Canary Islands because we found many banana trees there. This is our most recent addition. It comes from the in East Germany, from Wittenburg.

B: _________ Hamburg.

MAIDA BITTNER: To get up there nowadays, well, it appears to be steps, but it’s a very, very long and tedious walk uphill, quite steep, and in the early days they didn’t have this walk. You just walked along the path or the road. Since it was such a hard walk they had these donkeys that people rode up there, and they brought all their supplies up by donkey back. When we were there the donkeys were still there, and you could ride up on them if you wanted to.

VIC BITTNER: You might tell them what __________.

Q: What is it?

VIC BITTNER: The ________ was the place that Luther was confined after he had appeared before the group’s emissary in ______, and he was captured by one of the German princes and brought to the _______ for safekeeping because his life was ______. He was there as the knight, and during the time he was there Father _______ translated the New Testament in a matter of eleven weeks. That came from _______ which has been a fortress since 1057.

MAIDA BITTNER: And we were in one of the rooms where he had supposedly done his writing, and he was supposed to have been tempted by the devil and he took his ink bottle and threw it at the devil and it was supposed to have hit the wall and ink went allover. Well, you can see this spot, but actually, I don’t think they ever admit that. He fought the devil with his pen, is what was said in his writing against the devil. This we brought from Yugoslavia. There is a certain area in Yugoslavia that still wears these kinds of pantaloons and veils, and I thought it was representative of it. This is a very early German –actually, it’s a real Christmas ornament. It’s from Germany. This is a later ornament that
we got from Germany. One of the first ones we got –this was typical, too — ________ there’s the gal and there’s the man. And these are little elves we’ve had for many years, and a little sleigh and a little wagon with little people in
them. This is one of the ornaments that one of our granddaughters made when she must have been about five years old, I guess. This also is one that the second granddaughter made when she was a tiny, little girl. This fellow comes from Russia. We bought a number of these and brought them to the children on our street as a little memento _________. We always said to them, “Well, now you can ______ Russian.” These things we put on the tree, too. They were sent to Vic when he was in the hospital. Our granddaughters did them when they were real small, and they wrote little notes inside and did the work on the outside. And I tried to gather together many of the different kinds of green. There are quite a few in here, too. I probably should have put more _____. Some of these things I’ve had a long time. This came from Sweden, isn’t that right, Vic?


MAIDA BITTNER: It’s typical of a Swedish horse. They’ve got them in all sizes. We bought large ones for our grandchildren. This size we use on the Christmas tree, and then there is still a tinier size. This is the bell that my son made when he was in first grade over at the school, and the ornament had Bible verses on the inside. He also made one that had his picture in it, and ______, who has been dead a number of years now and was greatly beloved by most of the people belonging to our church and so much by the children in our school, I always think of her, too, when I ________ because, I guess, I’m a sentimentalist. I don’t know. These two little things are made of horsehair, and they come from Chile. I bought them when we went there, and I thought these ornaments would be different on the Christmas tree. I bought quite a few. I gave them…

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