Torches for 2 US Olympics made in Sycamore
By Kevin Solari
The Daily Chronicle
SYCAMORE — More than 30 years ago, a piece of Sycamore was at the start of two Olympiads.
Turner Brass of Sycamore designed and made the Olympic torches that traveled to and lit the flames of the Lake Placid Winter Games and the Los Angeles Summer Games, and the torches still are here.
Sycamore resident Jerry Pelan was superintendent of the Turner Brass plant at the time and, after the success of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, was presented with a plaque from the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and the torches in a ceremony at the plant.
“It was very nice,” Pelan said. “Good memories.”
He keeps them in his home, usually in his office, in a display that keeps the torches upright. He also keeps the message from the committee thanking him for his support of the Olympic Games, and a photo of him from when he received the torches.
There’s also an instruction booklet for the Los Angeles torch, including instructions on how to assemble and fill the torch with propane.
Pelan came to work at Turner Brass when the company decided it wanted to compete with Coleman in the camping stove market, he said. Since he left the Marine Corps, he had been working for Winchester Weston in East Alton. Winchester sent him to Sycamore to help with some paperwork at Turner. Turner offered him a job in the early 1960s, he said, and he worked there until he retired in 1995.
Turner ended up making the torches because someone at the parent company in California thought it would be a good idea, Pelan said. The plant made some samples to submit to the committee.
“We made them, and they were accepted,” Pelan said.
His association with the torches didn’t stop once they were made, however. The LA committee had planned a relay from New York to California that originally passed through all 50 states, although it eventually would be pared down to 33 states. It came through the Chicago area, very close to its birthplace in Sycamore.
“I had a chance to be there in person,” Pelan said. He said he carried it some of the way through St. Charles.
He said the city of Sycamore also was excited about its connection to the Olympic Games, saying Turner Brass’ contribution was well received and acknowledged.
“They were good times,” Pelan said.
Photo: President Ronald Reagan holds the Olympic torch, while gymnast Kurt Thomas starts another torch. The Olympic Torch Relay came through Washington on the road to Los Angeles for the 1984 Summer Olympics. Lana Harris/AP