A flip down memory lane

The Busy Bee was a tobacco shop in Churubusco. Owned and operated by Jim Thompson, the Busy Bee was located on South Main Street where the CITGO gas station stands today. Contributed

Hodges Dairy was a dairy and market in Churubusco. Operated by Ellsworth Hodge, it was located on West Whitley Street where the former C&A Tool building stands today. Contributed

John Ballard served as the chief of the Churubusco Police Department in the 1950s. Contributed

Local historians Chuck Mathieu (left) and Chuck Jones started the Churubusco History Center in 2011. Bridgett Hernandez

The Churubusco History Center displays local artifacts, including one of the town’s first television sets. Bridgett Hernandez

Local school and business memorabilia are among the items in the Churubusco History Center’s collection. Bridgett Hernandez

By Bridgett Hernandez


CHURUBUSCO — Calendars that offer a glimpse into Churubusco’s history are now for sale and proceeds benefit the Churubusco History Center and the Churubusco Public Library.

Local historian Chuck Mathieu has put the calendars together since 2005. The annual project started as a way for him to share his postcard collection. Encouraged by public interest that first year, he continued to share historical photographs each year in a calendar.

This year, the calendar highlights downtown businesses and other prominent establishments from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. It features black-and-white photographs of Smiley’s Sandwich Shop, Hazen Appliances and Hodges Dairy. Themes of previous years have included churches, schools and transportation.

The calendar also highlights important dates in the town’s history like July 27, 1948, when Oscar the turtle was first sighted by Ora Blue, Charlie Wilson and Gale Harris.

Mathieu can trace his interest in local history back to his boyhood. His great-great-great grandfather, David Craig, was one of the town’s cofounders. When Mathieu was in junior high, his history teacher, Chuck Jones, fanned the flames of his fascination with a local history project.

Mathieu has collected historic items from the Churubusco area for more than 30 years – enough to fill an upstairs bedroom at home.

In 2011, Mathieu and Jones – by then longtime friends – started the Churubusco History Center to share their collections along with other historic items that were previously without a home. The collection is shared through exhibits, publications, collaboration, research and educational programs.

The space for the History Center was donated and its doors are kept open with the support of local businesses and individuals. The calendars, which generate $500 each for the History Center and library, also help.

The calendar’s photographs are likely to bring back memories for the town’s older generation. One of Jones’ favorite images is one of Smiley’s Sandwich Shop, where he remembers hanging out as a boy.

For the town’s younger generation, Mathieu and Jones want to create a window into the past.

“We’re just trying to preserve history for the future,” Mathieu said.

“We want them to feel what Churubusco used to be like,” Jones said.

Times have changed, Jones said. He remembers there being more to do in the town when he was a boy – more shops and restaurants. The school was the hub of community activity, he said, and the drug store had a soda fountain.

The passage of time hasn’t been lost on Mathieu either. In 2010, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain tumor. The doctors performed surgery to remove the tumor, but they told Mathieu that he only had months to live. Almost eight years later, Mathieu needs a walker and wheelchair to get around, but he still spends two days a week at the History Center doing what he loves.

Mathieu and Jones said the History Center has seen a lull in traffic over the last six months.

“We have a lot of interesting things in here, we just wish we had more people come in and see them,” Mathieu said.

The collection includes photographs, newspapers, yearbooks, a mastodon tooth, Native American artifacts, works by local artists, one of the first television sets in town, a 100-year-old bathing suit as well as school and business memorabilia.

The History Center is always looking for donations of any historic items from the Churubusco area. The public can bring photographs and newspaper clippings to be scanned into a digital format.

The History Center’s hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday and Thursday. Groups interested in a tour during off hours can call (260) 693-3862 or (260) 691-2230 or email bhc@churubusco.net.

Churubusco historical calendars are for sale at the History Center, the Churubusco News, the Magic Wand Restaurant, Egolf’s IGA and Shroyers True Value.

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