Terry Konkle

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

June 14, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society The bears of Clayton Cahill will be the focus of the column for this week. Several readers called me with questions about what happened to them. With lots of help and a bit of research, some interesting parts of Rockford’s caged bear history were revealed. Jim Eadie got things started by telling me that one of the bears was shot and killed. It seems that the bear got loose and wandered out to Wolven Street and into the yard of Howard “Red” Wolven. “Red shot the bear” said Eadie. My next step was to see if the circumstances of the shooting could be found. Howard Wolven is deceased, but a phone call to his son Mike proved to be very profitable. “My mother and father and Les Paepke and his wife had been to a pancake supper, and my dad took the Paepkes home,” said Mike. “My mother glanced out of a window and saw a bear. She got the dog inside and when my father returned she told him, and he went out and saw the tracks. Then he decided to go get Les to help and the two of them, armed with a 32 Winchester and a 20 gauge shotgun, went out to track the bear.” Mike continued, “My dad was in front and Les was the backup. Suddenly the tracks ended by a tree. My father looked up and the bear was sitting on a limb. When he raised his gun to shoot, all he got was a ‘click’ but his second try was successful. The bear fell out of the tree dead. Les, the backup, then found that he did not have a shell in the chamber of his gun.” Neither knew that the bear belonged to Mr. Cahill. My thanks to Jim and Mike for the history of one bear. Ken Ploeg, whose father owned Morton Motor Sales, knew the story of the second bear. It died in the cage on Jericho Street. Ken, who often drove the firm’s wrecker truck, got a call to see if somehow the bear could be removed from the cage and transported to another location using the wrecker. “I went there and was able to hook […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News and Update

June 7, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Last week’s “Nugget of Rockford History” question solicited many correct answers and also brought out a lot of information. So far, 18 people have contacted me,  and all of them knew that Clayton Cahill was the well-known Rockford constable who had a bear caged on his property on Jericho Street. But the bear is just a part of the Cahill saga. Let me relate what people have told me! Mr. Cahill had two bears plus other animals. Several responders remembered a donkey, and many recalled monkeys. In addition there were foxes, wolves, a horse, a bobcat and at least one pet raccoon. Terri Gogo Byrne mentioned that the donkey could be heard often and that the animal had a name: “Teal.” Bud Graverson, who managed the Corner Bar for 20 years and the hotel for 15 said that the monkeys got loose and could be seen “swinging through parts of town.” Others also spoke of the monkeys getting out. Many told me that Mr. Cahill had animals in his house, including the raccoon. Ken Ploeg, who knows much about Mr. Cahill’s menagerie, said that when Constable Cahill went on night patrol, he would sometimes take the raccoon with him. Chief Lyle Ford, who worked during the day, did not appreciate the mess left by the raccoon in the police car (Rockford only had one police vehicle then). Many people mentioned that the Cahill property was often referred to as the “Rockford Zoo,” and that families would sometimes drive by to view the animals. I know that I drove my kids by the place more than once. Apparently at one time there were two cages on the property with one larger than the other. A few mentioned a white fence around the front cage. Bernie Young called from Florida to tell me about the bear. From his house on Fremont Street his family could see the bear in his cage and guests sometimes wondered what they were seeing when stopping by for cocktails. It was fun stopping at the Youngs’ residence for an opportunity to view the “bear in the zoo.” Whatever happened to the two bears? Next week I will recount the details as given to me […]


May 31, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Recently I have spoken with several people about some of my “Nuggets of Rockford History” questions. Helen Hessler and Gene Berry knew that the “Golden R” meets on the last Saturday of June each year and honors the Rockford High School class that has currently reached the 50-year mark. Other classes prior to 1962 are also included with many represented. This year the class of 1962 will be featured, and it is a special group for me. I was their class advisor in my second year of teaching. Actually, they taught me a lot. My wife and I will be at the “Golden R” meeting and also at the class reunion later that day. I had a nice phone conversation with Patty Burch, who had favorable things to say about Zell Gill. Later, at a meeting I attended, Steve Ellis told me that Zell had influenced him to serve on various groups. He mentioned the Library Board and H.U.D. Zell influenced a “good” man. Then, at Arlo Elkins’ Memorial service, his brother Dan mentioned that he knew Ruth Streeter and Zell Gill and had read my questions about them. Dan is a member of the class of 1962 and will attend the reunion next month. One way that he keeps in touch with our town is by reading The Rockford Squire. Here is a new “Nuggets of Rockford History” question, which was prompted by the recent sightings of a bear in our area. “What well-known Rockford person kept a bear caged on his property for a time?” Contact me at (616) 866-0530 with your answers and comments. On Thursday, June 7, the historical society will have its annual potluck meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Cabin, 220 N. Monroe St., Rockford. Officers will be elected for our new season. The meeting will be our last until we begin new programs in September. The society, as a group, does not meet in June, July or August, but our board and committees will continue to work. As readers know, we have a lot going on, and I will continue to keep people informed. We will set up at the present museum location for the Start of Summer Celebration […]


May 24, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society The Rockford Area Historical Society (RAHS) continues to be a busy group. As part of our fundraising efforts, members of RAHS and others will take part in the annual Parade of Homes event. Thirty-six volunteers will be involved greeting guests over the nine days of showing homes. They will work in pairs with each group doing a four-hour shift. The home we are responsible for hosting is located at 93 Riverchase Drive in Rockford. The viewing times are spread over a three-week period beginning May 25. Schedules and all locations can be found online at www.ParadeofHomesMI.com. Information has also been in recent newspaper ads. Our thanks goes to all the helpers and to my wife, Jan, for coordinating the effort. At the last Rockford City Council meeting, all five council members voted to approve a lease agreement with RAHS. This is a major step forward because now renovation of the courthouse can begin. We have the funds to do this without using pledged money, and it will start very soon. When the renovation is complete in the two large rooms, we are planning a major auction fundraiser before the exhibits go into the building. We need auction items and readers can help us with this. Our auction committee will be out with information soon, so please think about what you might have to donate. Money raised from the auction plus our pledges will pay for exhibits and operations. Donations continue to come in from those who want and are able to help. Recently many have come in from those in the “Golden R” group. More information about the lease and some of the provisions in it will be placed in future columns, but readers are welcome to contact me with questions at (616) 866-0530. A special thank-you is appropriate here to our city council, Mayor Steve Jazwiec, Brien Dews, Mary Eadie, Jerry Coon and  Rich Moll, who, along with City Manager Michael Young, listened to our proposal and allowed us the opportunity to make it work. I know that they had some concerns, but were willing to “let us try.” I am sure in the back of their minds they knew they were dealing with something that […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

May 17, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society This column is about a player I coached at Rockford High School. His name is Arlo Elkins, and he left a lasting impression on my life. Recently he passed away and memories of him keep popping up in my mind. Arlo’s best sport was tennis and, after graduation from Rockford High School in 1967, he went on to play in college and then on the pro tour. He was also a club pro and then the head girls’ tennis coach at the University of South Carolina where his teams were nationally ranked almost every year. He resigned earlier this year because of his health. He had coached there since 1984. Often, when he came back to Rockford, he would stop by to visit. I enjoyed seeing him, yet my best memories go back to his high school days when I coached him in junior varsity football, varsity and JV basketball, and varsity tennis. His father Ardie and mother Norrine both worked for the school and his older brothers Larry and Dan were both athletes, so Arlo often could be found “hanging around” the athletic areas when he was growing up. Was he a pest? No! He was a “gym rat.” He was a team manager. He helped with our summer swim program. He liked to be busy, and he usually was fun to be around. He was an average football player, an excellent basketball player, and a tremendous tennis participant. Often I am asked which athlete I think was Rockford High School’s greatest, and I cannot make that selection. I do know who was our greatest tennis player though. ARLO ELKINS! In his four-year high school career, he won 72 regular season matches and lost two (both in his freshman year). In his senior year he won the MHSAA Class B number one singles title. That season he only lost one set all year. By chance, I was the tennis coach because our coach left and no one wanted the job. Arlo actually coached the team while I tried to supervise the squad. I also kept him in line when he got a bit “cocky.” He was one of those “rare” athletes who did what he said […]

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