Guest Column: Remembering Mid-Town and beyond

Let’s travel back in time again, leaving downtown Rockford, crossing the river and finding ourselves on Seventh Street, now called the Mid-Town District.

After all, school’s out, and I can’t help but recall how I, as a child, spent part of my summer vacation. We are now in the 1930s, far removed from the distractions as well as attractions of the 21st century. Dad had a barber shop on Fourth Avenue, several blocks east of Seventh Street. It was complete with a potbellied stove, a huge wooden framed mirror, and a commodious barber chair with the most amazing grill work.

It was my delight to spend a day at Dad’s shop at least once during the summer. I had no trouble finding a friend in the neighborhood, which was largely Swedish. When it was lunch time, Dad and I would drive—at one time he owned a Hupmobile—to Seventh Street and eat at one of several restaurants along the way.

In 1941, Dad relocated to larger quarters in what was formerly an A & P store, at 806 Kishwaukee St. Instead of one barber chair, there was now room for two, and it was known as the F.J. Peter’s Barber Shop, although our family name was Petronis. Dad was a Lithuanian immigrant but fit in well with the east-siders. Here he would work until well past retirement age.

I happened to be in the Seventh Street area some weeks ago and turned down Fourth Avenue, expecting to see some remnants of the past. Instead, I found a lovely children’s park and playground where Dad’s shop and an adjacent grocery store once stood. What an excellent use of the land, I thought.

Wight School was still across the street, now called Wight Centre, and used for the training and education of SwedishAmerican Health System employees.

I must end this snapshot of my young life with a wish (prayer) for today’s children of Mid-Town: that they may grow to maturity and that their childhood as well as adulthood will be more than just about survival.

Genevieve Sandona is a lifelong Rockford resident.

from the Aug 1-7, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!