Some Rockford history didn’t make the grade

Author discusses images left out of Images of America Rockford

Bobbi Schirado had difficult decisions to make when she was choosing images for the recently published historic book featuring Rockford’s past. The native Rockfordite gathered her images of Rockford from museums, libraries, the public and old family albums for the book, Images of America Rockford. With hundreds and hundreds of pictures of varying quality, she needed to narrow down her choices to enough pictures to fill the 120-page book that now may be purchased from the Rockford Historical Museum and other locations in the area.

HISTORIC NAMES—Rockford’s oldest families were featured in the book Images of America Rockford. These people were all of significant help in providing pictures and information for the book: Helen Hessler, Janet Konkle, Norrine Elkins, Terry Konkle, Pat Frye, Jack Bolt, Janet Matthews, Diane Skiver, Virginia McComb, daughter of the late historian Homer Burch (and Clarence Blakeslee, not present).

HISTORIC NAMES—Rockford’s oldest families were featured in the book Images of America Rockford. These people were all of significant help in providing pictures and information for the book: Helen Hessler, Janet Konkle, Norrine Elkins, Terry Konkle, Pat Frye, Jack Bolt, Janet Matthews, Diane Skiver, Virginia McComb, daughter of the late historian Homer Burch (and Clarence Blakeslee, not present).

Schirado told her story and presented the book at the September meeting of the Rockford Historical Society on Thursday, September 3. She said she chose Rockford for the history book in part because of the historical society and museum. “You have already done a lot of the work,” she said.

Schirado said she is a firm believer that you don’t know where you are going until you know where you’ve been. She believes in the value of history and what we can learn about our own town’s roots through the images and stories of the past.

HISTORIC HUMOROUS—This photo did not make it into the Rockford history book. It is believed the man in the right of the photo is spraying water with a hose, although the hose is not in sight, leaving a humorous image.

HISTORIC HUMOROUS—This photo did not make it into the Rockford history book. It is believed the man in the right of the photo is spraying water with a hose, although the hose is not in sight, leaving a humorous image.

“When I was growing up, you knew the history of your town because people remembered it,” Schirado said of her reason for publishing the book. “Now lots of people come from elsewhere and don’t know the history.”

She said that while she was signing books at the recent first Rotary Reading Rocks in Rockford festival, a family came up to her, excited about the book. “They said this history was so cool. It turns out they are the family that just bought Clarence Blakeslee’s house,” Shirado stated.

BACK IN TIME—Bobbi Schirado poses with Rockford Historical Museum director Pat Frye on Thursday, September 3 at the group’s monthly meeting.

BACK IN TIME—Bobbi Schirado poses with Rockford Historical Museum director Pat Frye on Thursday, September 3 at the group’s monthly meeting.

When researching for the book, Schirado had help from many individuals. “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know,” she said to the group. Her research helped her learn plenty about Rockford’s past, but also left unanswered questions.

The cover image of the book is a good example. “I really liked this picture of a band. There has always been music in Rockford,” she said. Picturing a band with the name on a drum: Decker’s Rockford Band, the cover art raises the unanswered question of who the Decker was that sponsored the musicians. “We found a family of Deckers, but they were farmers. Would they sponsor a band? You wouldn’t think so,” Schirado said. She would love to know the answer to this mystery.

Schirado told the society members that she organized the book according to categories, including schools and churches, business and industry, organizations and groups, war and the homefront, and the river and the town. “You can’t divide the river from the town. There wouldn’t be a town if it wasn’t for the river.”

LOST IDENTITY—Rockford Historical Society member Jack Bolt challenges others to identify this tool. He brought the item to last week’s society meeting and was surprised when several members knew what it was. Check next week’s Squire to find out.

LOST IDENTITY—Rockford Historical Society member Jack Bolt challenges others to identify this tool. He brought the item to last week’s society meeting and was surprised when several members knew what it was. Check next week’s Squire to find out.

Schirado said people may publish a book like hers through companies like Arcadia Publishing, the company she chose, or simply keep a photo album for their own use and possible future historic value. “Use acid-free everything,” she said. “If your photos are in the old albums with the black pages, get those pictures out. Always identify the people in your pictures and indicate where and when they were taken.”

There were many, many pictures she could not use for the book because she didn’t know who was pictured and where they were. If you receive copies of pictures from someone else, indicate on the back where your copy came from. “Someone else might want to find that image as well,” she explained.

The Rockford Area Historical Society museum will be open during the weekends of Harvest Festival coming up the last weekend of September and the first two weekends of October. The museum is located by the dam in downtown Rockford and is the site of the ever-popular Make-It and Take-It Scarecrow event. You can buy copies of Schriado’s book at the museum during the festival or call the historical society at (616) 866-2235. The book is just $21.99 and makes a great gift or coffee table item.

The Little Red School House, located on the grounds of North Rockford Middle School, will also be open for tours on Saturday, September 26, from 1 to 3 p.m. The Rockford Rotary Club restored and maintains the historic one-room school building, and visiting it is an eye-opener for those who don’t remember the days of such schools.

The Rockford Area Historical Society meets the first Thursday of each month at the Rockford Community Cabin on Monroe Street at 7 p.m. Meetings are always open to the public and refreshments are provided.

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