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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Charming Business Girls #6

Kathleen McMillan was the daughter of Chester and Blanche McMillan in Granite City, but she came to Bloomington to live with her widowed grandmother, Mary McMillan, in the late 30s. She attended Brown's Business School and belonged to a non-academic sorority called the Omega Phi Tau. Her father was from Bloomington, but was a chief clerk with a railroad and had moved away for his work. At the time of the CBG contest she worked in the hosiery department of Montgomery Wards. Kathleen married Duncan Miller in 1940. He was a student at IWU and became a music teacher at Normal Community High School as well as the music director of the Passion Play for many years. Kathleen continued working as a bank teller and raised a son and four daughters.

Geneva Hack was born in Kentucky (1911) but came to McLean IL with her parents when she was just two years old. George Hack was a truck driver in McLean and Texie, her mother, was a waitress. Geneva worked as a bookkeeper for the McLean State Bank until it closed and then worked as bookkeeper for the Grover C. Helm Co and West Side Lumber for several years. She married in 1941 to George Gisel, a superintendent in a research department of Caterpillar Tractor. After he retired from Caterpillar he held various positions, such as deputy sheriff and deputy court clerk in McLean County. Geneva was an avid bowler and bridge player. Perhaps bridge is a great social leveler, for one time she was the partner of Mrs. George Mecherle in a bridge tournament. George and Geneva did not have any children, and Geneva died in 1984, fifteen years after George died. Some of you might ask whether that calendar on the wall a form of sexual harassment????

Lillian Linton was the daughter of Edgar and Bernadine Linton, born in 1915. Her father was a general contractor, and in 1937 Lillian was working for the Department of Public Welfare. She was active in the Tau Epsilon Delta and Sigma Phi Gamma sororities. These were sororities that included married and unmarried women. During the initiations they would have "slumber parties" at local hotels and order up midnight "lunches." In 1941 she was one of the young women planning the big "Farewell Military Ball" in Bloomington. Lillian worked as a legal secretary and then at the Eureka Company. She married in 1944 to William A. Beyer, but it appears that the marriage did not last, because he lived in many different cities and Lillian always lived in Bloomington. They had one son and three daughters, all of whom were raised by Lillian. Lillian died in Bloomington in 1995.

Thelma Lou Barbee was the daughter of Frank and Alice Barbee, born in 1913 in Sangamon County. Her father died in 1919, leaving a wife and three young children. Alice Barbee opened up her home in Springfield to boarders, but the house was already quite full with her three children and her parents. Sometime before 1937 Alice and Thelma moved to Bloomington, where they lived on Walnut Street. Thelma worked at the Chicago Motor Club office and attended Illinois Wesleyan. She was also active with the Community Players and Playcrafters, two local theater groups in the 30s. She even directed a short play with the Playcrafters. She was active with the Amateur Musical Club and was an organist. She married Belin V. Bodie in 1942. He was an Alton man with a degree from Johns Hopkins University. After living in Bloomington for several years they relocated to Mobile, Alabama where Bodie was General Manager of the G M and O Railroad there. They had two children. Thelma died in 2007.

Sylvia Goddard was born in 1915 in Rankin, Il but had moved with her parents to Bloomington by 1930. Her father worked as an engineer at a dairy plant. Sylvia completed her education at Bloomington High and was in a BHS play in 1933. In 1937 she joined the Community Players in a production of "First Lady," a comedy of life in Washington D.C. In 1937 she was a bookkeeper at the McLean State Bank. She married Earl Ford in 1939 and had three children with him. Unfortunately, Earl Ford died in 1956, just seventeen years after their marriage. An article in the 1958 Pantagraph revealed that Earl Ford had nominated Sylvia for the Charming Business Girls competition, despite the fact that they had not yet met. They became acquainted after the contest through mutual friends and married two years later. Sylvia worked for many years at the Eureka Williams Company Credit Union after her husband's death. She died in at the age of 87. Her obituary asked for donations in her memory to Visiting Clowns. The Visiting Clowns were a group that visited the elderly in retirement homes.

Mary Jane Fink was born in Bloomington, the daughter of William and Jane Fink. She was a secretary at the R.W. Gipson Insurance Agency in 1937. She had attended Illinois Wesleyan and married Franklin Rust in 1940. He was a stock breeder of cattle and saddle ponies. They left Illinois for Florida, where Franklin Rust became the manager of the Busch Gardens. They had three children. Mary died in 1978 in Florida, and donations in her memory were requested for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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