Beth Altena

The Squire to introduce staff

November 12, 2010 // 0 Comments

Here at The Rockford Squire newspaper, located right in Rockford at 331 Northland Drive, we have been cranking out your local paper for years, taking pride in being a unique source of local news. What we haven’t done so much of is letting readers know what it is like “behind the scenes” and telling you how your paper happens each week. In the next few months we will be giving you articles about the people here who work out of our office. We often receive calls asking for our classified “department” or our education editor. With big newspapers, this may be a reasonable request, but we chuckle when we transfer the phone to the “department.” In fact, the newspaper, although heavily reliant on community members who help us with local coverage, is actually run by a staff of just seven people who work out of the office. We don’t have departments of people in charge of production, classifieds, circulation, or a team of editors. Our first featured staff member is Roger Allen, who was in charge of the paper for about 30 years after saving it from bankruptcy. He is the father of current Managing Editor Beth Altena, Here is his story.  Better with Age  You get a free history lesson: This newspaper you’re reading, The Rockford Squire, is the product of Rockford’s oldest continuously run business. Begun in 1871 (counting on my fingers)… it is 139 years old. My personal history began in Washington, D.C. I was born there only because I wanted to be near my mother. It was 1928. The Great Depression started the next year (not my fault). The family moved to Lombard, Ill., and then on to New Jersey, where I grew up. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I signed on with a major corporation. It didn’t take long to learn that I didn’t like corporate life. Moving to Michigan, I settled into insurance claims adjusting and started my own company. That endeavor evolved into catastrophe adjusting and employment with the National Flood Insurance Program and then with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These jobs required a lot of travel, which I loved. In slow times I worked as an accountant, but would leave for a catastrophe […]

‘Balls of fire over Rockford’ mystery solved

October 1, 2010 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA We know there are plenty of mysteries in the night skies of Rockford because we heard all about them last week from callers. The “balls of fire” in the sky over Rockford the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 15 no longer remain one of those mysteries, however. The calls started coming in quickly after the Squire went to press last week. One of the first callers, Verna, was walking near Krause Memorial Library and said she saw the lights in the sky. “They looked just like the running lights of an airplane, but they couldn’t be because there was no sound,” Verna stated. From her perspective, the lights appeared tiny, no bigger than the end of her finger, and they were white. Verna said she was “flabbergasted” by the sight. The first group of six or eight floated over the library toward the credit union on the corner of Bridge and Monroe streets. She said there were way too many to be hot air balloons and they were also too close together. Rockford Volunteer Police Unit member Larry has seen what looked like balls of fire over Lake Bella Vista. In the dark the balls appeared to be filled with fire, but with binoculars Larry saw the glowing orb was in fact a hot air balloon, complete with a Michigan State S on the side. Brian advised that the balls could be ball lightening, an effect he saw online by Googling “balls of fire.” Crystal of Rockford saw a similar phenomenon a year ago when driving north on US-131. She approached the Rockford overpass and saw hovering balls of fire in the sky over the road, all in a line. As she continued north, she saw two more just after the 14 Mile Road exit. Those two were moving southward, as though to join the others. She called the Rockford Police, who said no one else had reported the sighting. They connected her to the National Weather Service, who said there was nothing in the skies in that area. “It was the weirdest thing I ever saw,” she stated, saying the light in the balls didn’t flicker like flame, or shine down onto the ground. She said if you search “orange orbs” on […]

What’s in your attic? Toy collector displays favorites at Herman’s Boy

September 30, 2010 // 0 Comments

Show open during Harvest Fest by Beth Altena Nate Brown always loved toys and admits he never really grew up, but early on in his collecting days he learned a valuable lesson: Don’t throw out the box. Brown has hundreds of antique toys on display at Herman’s Boy, 220 Northland Drive. He is out back in a barn that was once a pig sty and former “dog house” for the man of the home years ago, when his wife would occasionally lock him out, according to a long-time neighbor. “I was at an auction sale of antique toys in Lafayette, Indiana, and they held up a farm tractor and it went for $400,” Brown stated. “I had one just like it at home, so I was surprised. Then they held up the box and it went for $500.” Brown said boxes are often priced more highly than the items they once held because nobody keeps the boxes. “Did you ever keep the boxes your toys came in at Christmas?” he asked. Once a set is separated from the box, it is impossible to know if the set is complete or what is missing. Brown is a collector of toys, trains, coins, tools and lunchboxes, and he and Joyce, his wife of 49 years, are more than happy to share the efforts of years of collecting and research with those who stop in to visit. With hundreds of pieces on display at Herman’s Boy, Brown said the selection is just a drop in the bucket to his entire collection. He brought farm-related pieces for the most part to go along with the harvest theme of the annual festival which runs through October 10. Among the oldest toys on display is a handmade plow dating to the 1870s. Made by a father who farmed on Ten Mile Road in Ottawa County, it isn’t much to look at, but has a nice story. There are other nice stories go along with each of the toys in the collection. A blue Batmobile surprises fans of the show. “Everybody thinks the Batmobile is black, but in the original show it was blue,” Brown stated. Since the show aired in black and white, the fact is little known. Brown described “sleepers” […]

Rockford artist shares rainbow cookie visions

September 23, 2010 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA When looking back on a life of accomplishments, local artist Philip Glass sees rainbows—in cookies. The long-time resident may be known for his career as an artist here. He once had a oil painting gallery in the South Squire street red kaboose now occupied by Reading Books and once painted a mural for the American Legion in honor of fallen military heroes. He designed screenprinting for t-shirts. Some people may still drink coffee from the cups he had made depicting his sketch of the Rockford dam. It is another artistic contribution that Glass still ponders, however, and it is likely little known around town. Glass believes Keebler Rainbow Cookies are the result of a vision of rainbows that came to him during a profound time in his life. Glass said about 20 years ago he was losing his vision to cataracts and feeling very emotional about the loss of his visual world. One day he looked up at a spectacular rainbow and it struck him that he may never see one again. “I made up a poem right there on the spot,” Glass recounts. He also imagined in that moment a cookie made with the colors of a rainbow and decided to submit his idea to Keebler Company. He sketched a drawing of a rainbow machine—which he still has today, crafted a letter to the company explaining his ideas and sent it in. Glass said he went about his business, which included receiving surgery to restore his vision, and later received a letter from the company. Dated November 6, 1987, the letter thanked him for his input but went on to state, “Because of the obvious misunderstandings and uncertainties which often arise from the use of ideas independently conceived, our company, as many others in the food business, has a policy of not examining or considering ideas or suggestions from outside sources unless submitted without obligation of any kind on our part.” It asked Glass to re-submit his idea with an enclosed agreement and thanked him for his interest in the company. Pursuing his cookie idea, Glass said he followed the company’s recommendation and again waited to hear from them. He received a second letter dated November 30, again thanking him for […]

Rockford grad in midst of breaking world news

April 8, 2010 // 0 Comments

Man’s most complex machine to answer questions of the universe by BETH ALTENA Several years ago, the world media was filled with worries that Earth’s first particle collider would create a black hole and suck in the planet with everyone and everything on it. Last week, the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) first successful proton collision took place and Rockford graduate Burt DeWilde was there to see it happen. In fact, he is helping make it happen.   “We hope to fill the gaps in our current understanding and answer some of the ‘big’ questions, including: What is the origin of mass? Why is the universe made of matter and not anti-matter? What were conditions like in the first moments after the Big Bang,” DeWilde said of the experiments. DeWilde said the machine is located 100 meters underground, in part because of concerns of radiation. “The Earth’s crust acts as an excellent radiation shield, protecting everyone from the results of those powerful collisions,” he said. “Just in case, my renters insurance covers technological catastrophe. No worries here.” In fact, the machine is safe. DeWilde said the worries caused by news coverage led scientists to study the situation and come to the conclusion that the LHC poses no danger to the Earth. “For billions of years nature has been bombarding the atmosphere with high-energy particles called cosmic rays that have resulted in about as many collisions as a million LHC experiments,” DeWilde stated. “The fact that we are still here today is a very good reason—among others—to believe we’ll survive LHC as well.” DeWilde is in Switzerland as a research assistant and PhD candidate. He works for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research and is pursuing his thesis where the most breaking physics science is taking place. Specifically DeWilde works on a particle detector called ATLAS, which is the size of half the Notre Dame Cathedral and weighs as much as the Eiffel Tower. “My research so far is focused on developing new and improved silicon sensors used to detect and track charged particles passing through the innermost layers of the detector,” De Wilde explained. He said the machines are so complex scientists have to work on upgrades years in advance, before the machines are even […]

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