Rockford Historical Society to hold annual dinner

Rockford Historical Society to hold annual dinner

By Susan Johnson, Copy Editor

The Rockford Historical Society will hold its annual dinner Sunday, March 9, at Midway Village and Museum Center, 6799 Guilford Rd. Sue Crandall, president of the Society, explained that this year the county is going to celebrate the dedication of Memorial Hall in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. He came to town in June of that year.

“This was the first hall of its nature dedicated to the veterans of all the wars, and primarily Army and Navy,” Crandall said. “We didn’t have an Air Force then. But it was for the veterans of all wars. President Roosevelt came to town on the train, and there was a big band and parade. They marched down the street, and there were hundreds of people all around Memorial Hall to greet the president. He dedicated the hall on the steps of the hall, and he was very well thought of. Although a Republican, he was supported by a lot of the Democrats because he was of the Progressive Party. He really was strongly for taking care of the problems that many people had.”

How will that theme be incorporated in the annual dinner? “We always have an annual dinner at the Rockford Historical Society and have a theme,” explained Crandall. “We thought since the whole county will be celebrating this year, we could kick it off with our dinner, and Mark Culhane, a Rockford native, his grandfather—his mother’s father—was a Spanish-American War veteran. Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders were part of this war.

“I have known the Culhanes and went to school with them at West High School. I remember Mark being quite good at various things. He sometimes does Irish things with Chuck Sweeny at some of the pubs in Chicago, and is a wonderful interpreter. I called him and said I had an idea. I’d like to have Teddy Roosevelt come to our dinner, not just to talk about the history of the president, but really just be the president. Mark thought that was pretty intriguing, so he is going to come and be the president and talk about his experiences.”

Others will participate in the historical theme as well.

“Some of us are going to dress as the people of 1903,” Crandall added. “I’ve chosen to be a woman activist, Kate O’Connor. She was from one of the Irish immigrant families that came to Rockford and lived in the city. Her father died when she was a little girl. She never married, but helped support the family. She was in real estate and helped in getting the women’s right to vote. Someone will be there as a Civil War veteran. We haven’t heard all of the names of the people who will attend, but there will be others.”

As a side note, she observed, “The tables will be decorated with teddy bears. This is the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear,” named, of course, for the president who made them famous.

Mark Culhane, a speech teacher at Rock Valley College, observed, “I’ve always had tremendous respect for Teddy Roosevelt, and I am really looking forward to portraying him in the upcoming ceremonies. Anything that has to do with old Rockford always reaches my heart because my family has been here a long time. My family has been here since before the Civil War.”

How will he portray the famous president? “I’m thinking of doing it where I come back this year, 100 years later. I’ll be able to talk about my whole career and life and the presidency and afterwards. I’ll also talk about the dedication in Rockford. We’re going to have fun.”

Mark your calendar for Sunday, March 9. The gathering time is 4:15, with dinner at 5 p.m. Cost is $15 per person. There is limited seating. For tickets, call 963-6019.

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