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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Charming Business Girls #3

I have to admit I am obsessed with the Charming Business Girl contest. There is no indication that these women sought out this attention, there were no nominations or entry forms. It seems that the Pantagraph just wandered over a four or five county area looking for young women who would agree to have their photos taken and talk to them. Of course the promise of a twenty five dollar prize would have been tempting during the Depression. I love choosing the groups at random and finding any patterns in the group. The first group had an out sized proportion of half orphans, but the second group had only half orphan. The second group included a very interesting profession -- photo-colorist. The types of jobs open to women were not varied -- we see many hair dressers, secretaries, bookkeepers, and cashiers.

Leona Stokowski is the first of the women to have an identifiably Eastern European name. She was from Minonk, in Woodford County and worked at a variety store in Minonk. ln the photo she seems to be inside the variety store near a counter of merchandise and a display of rag rugs. In 1934 the Streator newspaper ran a story about the World Wide Guild Girls' candlelight ceremony at the Baptist church. The chapter was named the Rowena Chapter Wa He Lo. The name of the group seems like a faux Native American name, but the focus of the ceremony was religious. Leona married Kenneth Sakes in July 1939 in Streator. She was a graduate of Minonk High School and worked one year at the variety store and two years at the Princess Sweet Shoppe in Streator. Leona's father, Theodore Stokowski was born in Chicago of German parents and was a coal miner in Minonk. Her mother was Ella May Boston of Long Point before she married Theodore Stokowski.

Mrs. Dwight Shaw of Delavan, Illinois was a secretary at the Simpson Scale Co. Before her marriage to Dwight, she was Frances Kaufman the daughter of William and Margaret Kaufman. Her father had his own business in automobile "accessories." No record of their marriage was noted, but according to Dwight's WWII draft card, he was an employee of the Tazewell County National Bank. He later had positions at other banks, including Executive Vice President of the bank in Fisher, IL. Frances resigned from the scale company in 1939. The Shaw's had at least one daughter, Lana.

Hannah Schilpf was a cashier at the Central Illinois Public Service Co. (the electric company) Hannah was a resident of Fairbury, IL, and the daughter of Jacob and Maria Schilpf. She later married Marvin Reany in 1942 and lived with him in Livingston County, where she was a homemaker and did secretarial work. Marvin Reany managed the sewer plant in Fairbury for twenty years. They did not have children. They were members of the First Presbyterian Church of Fairbury but had no social life that was recorded in the local papers.

Ruth Smith was the daughter of Joseph and Mary Smith of Clinton, Illinois. In 1937 she was working for an unnamed insurance company in Clinton. Her father was a blacksmith, an increasingly uncommon profession at that time. She married Robert B. Johnson in 1941, shortly before he was expected to leave for military service. Robert was selected leader of a contingent of 18 draftees leaving Clinton on June 19, 1941. Robert worked as supervisor of parolees in the Illinois Department of Corrections during most of his life. He died in 1984 and Ruth survived him. Ruth died in 1994 and her obituary stated she was an avid bridge player, a member of the Elks and the Clinton Welfare League. They had one daughter, Kathleen.

Mary Hendricks of Minonk was the Deputy Clerk at the Woodford County Circuit Clerk's office in Eureka in 1937. Mary's father had died in 1932 in a work accident building a road near Hebron, Illinois. The family had been living in Woodstock, but Tena, Mary's mother, moved herself and her children to Minonk after his death, to be near her own family, the Kalkwarfs. Mary was a graduate of Eureka High and the Bloomington Brown's Business College. In 1941 she was still working in the clerk's office, but left to marry Donald K. Risser of Danvers. Mary and Donald moved to Cincinnati OH and had a daughter there in 1945. Donald had signed enlistment papers in Peoria, but worked in Cincinnati during the war, part of the time as an air traffic controller. He was a graduate of Bluffton College in Ohio and was a school teacher most of his life. They had two children. Mary died in Eureka, while visiting family, in 1982. Donald died in 1989 in Grand Rapids, Michigan where they had been living for many years.

Grace Johnston worked at a beauty shop in Danvers at the time of the Charming Business Girls contest. Her mother was a widow and school teacher in Danvers. Her father, Levi Johnston (68 y.o.) died in 1923 when Grace was four years old and her sister five. Her mother was over 40 when both her daughters were born. It was Levi Johnston's second marriage and his children from his first marriage were all adults at the time of his death. Grace married in 1945 to Frank Popovits in Chicago and a second time to a man named Dahlke. At the time of her mother's death in 1956, Grace was married to Dahlke and living in Chicago. No further information could be learned about Grace's life.

There are so many names here that I have never heard before in the Charming Girl stories -- Kalkwarf? It sounds like a character from a Harry Potter story. But I sure you, the name Kalkwarf did not die out, many Kalkwarfs can be googled. It is a North German name for a person who lived by a slack heap made from burning lime! The German translation is "Kalk" -- lime "Warf" -- mound with a dwelling, according to

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