Of Mice and Men

Historical Society member Georgia Cawley teaches her grandson Miles how to work the antique mousetrap.

Historical Society member Georgia Cawley teaches her grandson Miles how to work the antique mousetrap.

Today I have invited a guest to write a post for my blog–none other than Aaron Underwood, President of the Long Grove Historical Society. Aaron writes a regular column on Long Grove history for our local lifestyle magazine, and this favorite artifact of mine was the subject of a recent article.  Wait, I mean the mousetrap pictured above is a favorite artifact–but I guess the author is a valuable treasure too! Anyway, enjoy the following story which recently appeared in Long Grove Living:

Of Mice and Men

One of the joys of living in Long Grove is being in such close proximity to a variety of living creatures. Unfortunately, all those majestic animals are far outnumbered by those little pesky ones, such as the humble field mouse. When seasons change, it seems our local mice prefer the sanctuary of our homes rather than the acres of open space where they belong. The earliest settlers of Long Grove fought the battle to rid their homes of mice just like we do. One of the favorite artifacts in our restored 1840’s farmhouse, is a wire mousetrap. We think it dates to the late 1800’s and likely was sold out of one of Long Grove’s general stores.

The trap is laid with bait in the center and lures mice through a levered flap that is angled such that the mouse can “nose through” to enter, but can’t raise the flap to exit. The trap works as good today as it ever did. If evolution ever decides to bless the mouse with opposable thumbs, the effectiveness of this trap will go astray. Come to think of it, mice with upgraded thumbs might doom all of us.

The classic wooden mouse “snap” trap that you find sold in Long Grove today was invented in 1898. Given the extremely fertile “mouse friendly” environment we live in, perhaps it’s not surprising that the classic “snap” trap was invented in Illinois, about 150 miles from Long Grove. It was noteworthy in that it didn’t rely on gravity, but rather was spring powered. Called the “Little Nipper”, the design remains virtually unchanged today.

Recently a brewery in Chicago received much publicity for the feral cats they use to patrol their grain stores. Our own Long Grove Village Hall occasionally does this as well. When I moved here almost twenty years ago, we employed a cat named Drexler, and he was succeeded by another feline affectionately known as Drexler II. Like many roles in our community, these stray cats are unpaid volunteers. The role of Village mouse catcher is currently unfilled and available for the stray looking for some community service. To apply, simply show up at Village Hall looking hungry, meow a lot, and get to work. Not to take issue with anyone who may have reserved the name Drexler III for any new recruit, but might we dub the new mouse antagonist “Little Nipper” instead?

— Aaron Underwood, President, Long Grove Historical Society

Zombies, Wolves, & One Seriously Scary Doll

Long Grove merchants and residents worked together to create this display of hand-carved jack-o-lanterns welcoming those brave enough to experience Red Riding Hood's haunted trail.

Long Grove merchants and residents worked together to create this display of hand carved jack-o-lanterns welcoming those brave enough to experience Red Riding Hood’s haunted trail.

Reading the title of this post might cause you to ask, “What do these three things have to do with Long Grove?” On the Historical Society’s October 28th Ghost Walk, not only could you find zombies, wolves, and an evil doll residing in our village, but the Ghost of Cuba Road materialized as well to scare the nearly 300 children and parents who participated. The Halloween fun kicked off Friday afternoon with Trick-or-Treating in the historic downtown shops. It was delightful to see so many cutely costumed kiddos as I was purchasing embellishments to add to my own witch getup for later that evening.

Serving as a tour guide, it was my job to safely navigate families of willing “victims” through our haunted historic district. The route took us past the line of scarecrows on Towner Green, some of which were not quite dead. The zombie dancers at In-Motion returned again this year to entertain, as did crazy Jake Eisler and his stick of dynamite. Good thing Jake was a die-hard Cubs fan, coming back from the grave to listen to the world series game and give us updates on the score! The Long Grove Community Church welcomed us in for a tour of their 1800’s cemetery, featuring the real-life tombstone of one past Long Grovian named Fredriche Krueger. Yes, “Freddy Krueger” was indeed lurking about, as well as many other spirits of the past. A trip back to the safety of the village involved crossing our haunted covered bridge, and a journey through Red Riding Hood’s spooky, wolf infested woods. The tour concluded this year with perhaps the most spine-tingling story of the evening, as Mike Dvorack used sound and light effects to tell the tale of “Arabella” the seemingly sweet yet secretly sinister doll. One father of a 5 year old confided in me that his daughter would probably now be sleeping in Mom & Dad’s bed for the next night or two! Having fun scaring the children….accomplished.

Here’s hoping that your Halloween is equally thrilling and chilling!

Attending the 2016 Ghost Walk are Long Grove residents (L to R): Doug and Jane Primack, Ellie, Jennifer and Collin Russell, Angie Underwood and Georgia Cawley.

Attending the 2016 Ghost Walk are Long Grove residents (L to R): Doug and Jane Primack, Ellie, Jennifer and Collin Russell, Angie Underwood and Georgia Cawley.

Mel’s Gas Info-Station

Long Grove resident Randy Towner, carrying on the family gas station at the crossroads, Mel's.

Randy Towner helps carry on his father’s business, Mel’s Marathon Mini Mart, at the crossroads in downtown Long Grove.

Every small town has a “hub” from which all real information flows. In my central Illinois hometown, circa 1970’s, it was the local diner, Kathy’s Kitchen. The grain elevator was another hotspot for local news, and I got to witness this firsthand during the summers when I worked for my Dad, who managed the elevator, and my cousin Rita, who managed the office help. Farmers would come in every day to “check the grain prices” but I suspected another reason they stayed and visited with each other so long was the desire to “check the latest chatter” going on around town.

In Long Grove, the undisputed central source of information is Mel’s, our crossroads gas station. Originally owned by long-time residents Mel and Dee Towner, the station is built on family property that dates back to the 1920’s and includes the open area now known as Towner Green. The station is currently managed by Mel’s sons Randy and Wendall, who run a mini mart in addition to the traditional gas pumps. Nothing much happens in Long Grove that Randy has not caught wind of almost immediately. When I truly want to find out what is going on in town, I go fill the car up, or better yet…send my husband to find out the latest report. Aaron loves to come home and inform the Village President what information hasn’t yet made it to Village Hall. And if I ever feel the need to verify the advance intelligence, it always checks out.

It helps that Mel’s also provides a tow truck for use in emergencies, so communications with the Lake County Sheriff officers are frequent. Case in point:  recently a local youth drove a car into a neighborhood pond, and one of my Trustees happened by the scene as the rescue was in process and phoned me. I felt like I had some breaking-news information to tell my husband as he walked in the door, only to have him fill me in with even more details gleaned as he was getting gas for the lawnmower.

The Towner family has long held a role in helping our community prosper. Mel Towner served 44 years as a volunteer fire fighter, and Dee Towner’s father donated the land to build our first fire department. The gas station today is a touchstone to our roots as a rural community. If a business in the historic downtown is closing, or a new store opening up, 9 times out of 10 I will hear the news from Randy first. I think it is great that we have a hometown merchant who provides a place to check in and take the pulse of the community; a place where you can experience both a friendly greeting and some local flavor. Mel’s is located at the heart of our crossroads and is in a variety of ways the center of what keeps many of us in Long Grove connected.

Fantastic Fannie Farmer

John Kopecky (seated) introduces Aaron Underwood to Fannie, pictured outside of John's store The Country House.

John Kopecky (seated) introduces Historical Society President Aaron Underwood to Fannie, pictured outside of John’s store The Country House.

It seems we have a lady-about-town causing quite a sensation. Meet Fannie Farmer, the newest addition to our Historic Downtown Long Grove Association. Born in 1942, Fannie is a vintage McCormick Farmall tractor in a flashy shade of red, fully restored and operational. Downtown merchants John Kopecky and Matt Potempa recently acquired Fannie from a farm sale up in Woodstock, Illinois and introduced her to to her new home in Long Grove where she will strut her stuff during the various festivals. Fannie’s inaugural debut will be escorting visitors around town on wagon rides during our upcoming Vintage Days Festival, August 20th and 21st.

New this year, Vintage Days will feature music, shopping, and assorted vendors with a flavor of the past. The Long Grove Community Church is offering an old fashioned ice cream social and outdoor services near the Sunset Gazebo on Fountain Square. The Historical Society is participating with a family oriented Penny Carnival on the grounds of the Farmhouse, and historical wagon tours of the downtown (here is where Fannie gets in on the action!) Come check it out–Vintage Days is a free local festival that will appeal to all ages.

The Thin Blue Line

Caught at Village Hall by our Lake County Sheriff Officer, Kevin McHugh.

Caught at Village Hall by our Lake County Sheriff Deputy, Kevin McHugh.

Most residents of Long Grove are familiar with the fact that we do not have a municipal police department, but instead contract for police services through the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. This has been a long-standing and beneficial arrangement for the Village, and we have been fortunate to have many deputies over the years providing excellent service to our community. One current familiar face to all of us in Long Grove is Deputy Sheriff Kevin McHugh.

From time to time, I have heard Long Grove warmly referred to as “Mayberry,” in a comparison to the fictional hometown that was the setting for T.V.’s The Andy Griffith Show. In that same spirit then, Deputy Sheriff McHugh is our Sheriff Andy Taylor. Officer McHugh has been serving our Village since May of 2005, and is by now so familiar with our community that he knows many of our citizens by name. I’m not the only resident who takes comfort in being greeted by Kevin’s friendly smile in the downtown, out on patrol of our streets, or at my doorstep when the security system is accidentally triggered (again!) When the Food Network needed an amicable and outgoing public figure to emcee the cooking competition during the Long Grove filming of their show Eating America during Strawberry Fest, Kevin was the man.

But make no mistake, Officer McHugh is a highly skilled professional and takes law enforcement in our Village very seriously. He graduated from University of Louisville, KY as a Crime Prevention Specialist and began his career with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in 1987, being elected Deputy Sheriff of the Year in both 1999 and 2000. In August of 2013, just a few months after taking office, I was honored to present Officer McHugh with a special outstanding service award from the Village of Long Grove.

Yesterday, on June 30, 2016, Kevin retired after serving 29 years with the Lake County Sheriff. A cookout was held at the fire station so that we could offer our deep appreciation for the many contributions he has made to make our Village a safer place to live. Everyone in Long Grove wishes Kevin well in his new endeavors, and we hope to see him back in town from time to time.

A Model Citizen

Sharing a light-hearted moment with emcee Bonnie Conte of Avalon Salon in Deerpark, at the May 5th Long Grove Fashion Show at the Grove Country Club.

Sharing a light-hearted moment with emcee Bonnie Conte (right) of Avalon Salon in Deerpark, at the May 5th Long Grove Mother’s Day Fashion Show at the Grove Country Club.

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that male politicians don’t get asked to model in many fashion shows. If they do, I’m pretty sure it does not involve wearing a dress, high heels, and lots of accessories (let’s not even mention the indignity of spanx!) Last month I was asked to help support a local not-for-profit group by modeling in their “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” fashion show fundraiser. The Caring Women’s Connection helps a number of organizations and programs in Lake County serving women and children such as: A Safe Place, Lake County Haven, Mount Saint Joseph, Stuben House, and scholarships for deserving high school seniors. I was happy to assist in raising funds for these worthy causes…but modeling? Did they know that my last experience walking the runway was circa 1975, wearing my hand-crafted, (blue-ribbon winning!) 4-H sewing project at the McLean County Fair? These days I’m more accustomed to making speeches or running public meetings, but anything for a good cause, right?

The day was actually a lot of fun and I got the chance to make connections with some fantastic women. The dress that I showcased came from Fashion In Motion, which is a pink mobile truck featuring beautiful clothes and accessories for sale instead of tempting food items. For more information on the work of this dynamic and caring group of ladies visit their website at CaringWomensConnection.com.

Backstage with fellow models Cris Grooms (center) and Rita Foley (right) at the "Breakfast at Tiffany's" Fashion Show sponsored by the Caring Women's Connection.

Backstage with fellow models Cris Grooms (center) and Rita Foley (right) at the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Fashion Show sponsored by the Caring Women’s Connection.

Another local fashion show was held last week in Long Grove and this time my support came by way of raffle tickets purchased, boutique shopping, and cheering on the efforts of our hometown merchants. Over 150 fashionable ladies gathered to see the newest looks of the season just in time for Mother’s Day, courtesy of Long Grove boutiques Olivia’s and Bella Donna. It was a delightful evening of shopping and conversation with friends and neighbors, with the raffle proceeds going towards the fight against breast cancer. Here’s to high style, philanthropy, and lots of lovely ladies!

Boutique owners (L to R) Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna and Lynne Jankovec of Olivia's Past walk the runway to celebrate the conclusion of another successful fashion show.

Boutique owners (L to R) Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna and Lynne Jankovec of Olivia’s walk the runway to celebrate the conclusion of another successful fashion show.

A Visit with Marcie and Blondie


Hi!! My name is Marcie and Village President Underwood (pictured with me above) has invited me to be her very first guest blogger on “Life In Long Grove.”  How did this happen? Well, we became friends when I visited Mangel’s gift shop this past weekend with Blondie, another puppy up for adoption, and our volunteer buddies from Save-A-Pet (pictured below.)


We love Long Grove!! Merchants here provide water for us and sometimes treats! And the wildlife smells are captivating–so many squirrels! But I’m getting distracted…you probably want to know why we were in Mangel’s lovely shop today.

You see, Blondie and I are looking for a forever home. The nice people at Mangel’s were giving a portion of their proceeds today to support our no-kill shelter, Save-A-Pet. This is a great place in nearby Grayslake that serves as a safe haven for abused, neglected, injured or lost animals. They help give dogs and cats a second chance and serve to foster young kittens and puppies until we are old enough to be adopted. Blondie and I are old enough now!! Village President Underwood adopted her cat from our shelter many years ago, so she can vouch for the care we receive. But as nice as the folks are at Save-A-Pet, what we are really wishing for is to be part of a loving family. You can find out more about us, and about other ways of supporting our non-profit organization by visiting our website at saveapetil.org. Come visit our adoption center at 31664 N. Fairfield Road in Grayslake.

It was so much fun spending the day in Long Grove and making a whole bunch of new friends. We discovered lots of reasons to bark less and wag more! Blondie and I really like this town and could be very happy living here…

CSI: Bench You Can’t Guess What Happened Here

Happening upon a potential crime scene on my way to official mayoral duties.

Happening upon a potential crime scene on my way to official mayoral duties.

Something very strange has happened here in Long Grove. It is a mystery without an answer. I am writing about this today, in hopes that one of my blog readers will be able to provide the Village with some insight into what really occurred.

The Crime Scene:  Archer parking lot, on a beautiful Saturday morning following Apple Fest. In town to participate in a ceremonial ribbon cutting for a new business, I happened on a scene of utter destruction. One of our municipal park benches had been totally dismantled; yanked out of the brick foundation by an unseen force. Was it local vandals or something more sinister? We just don’t know.

The Evidence:  Twisted metal spikes and wooden bench slats laying askew. I did notice a slight lingering odor of cotton candy, and traces of rainbow colored fur caught on the rough edges of some boards. In addition, strange hoof prints were noticed in the adjacent landscape beds. Upon closer inspection, animal droppings of a curious sort were present, dusted with a glittery sparkle. Unicorns? Samples were gathered and sent to the lab for analysis.

Afraid that I would be late for my mayoral duties, I continued on to the ribbon cutting. After interviewing several merchants, I learned that a family of giant ogres had been recently spotted taking up residence underneath our covered bridge. Could they have also seized our bench and accidentally reduced it to a pile of toothpicks? I wonder…

On my way back to the car I passed by the scene again and took another closer look. It was then that I discovered several crushed and limp shamrocks littering the crime scene, and an empty, cracked “pot o’gold” discarded off to one side of the parking lot. Could leprechauns be the culprit here? I contacted the Lake County Sheriff to file an unusual incident report.

First thing Monday morning our crack investigative team from the Ela Township road crew arrived to stabilize the situation. Potential alien DNA was spotted and reported to the authorities. Still, no definitive answers. The bench was reassembled and now seems to be giving off lesser amounts of radiation.

The Conclusion:  We haven’t got a clue. And if this seems a bit far fetched, April Fools! But we still have no idea what really happened to our bench.


Office Hours

Signing a liquor license for Finch's Beer with Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer at the Four Seasons in Chicago.

Signing a liquor license for Finch’s Beer with Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer at the Four Seasons in Chicago.

One of the questions that I am often asked is how many hours a week do I spend volunteering as Village President? Is it a full-time job? While the time spent on Village concerns varies widely from day to day, one thing that I can guarantee is that this is a job without regular “office hours.”

Most weekdays I spend a minimum of two hours answering emails and phone calls, oftentimes more. Several days a week I have meetings to attend, many in Long Grove but others further afar in Lake County or downtown Chicago. Quite a few of my meetings are in the evening, including Village Board meetings which typically run until 10 pm or later. Invariably, issues “blow up” on weekends, and I will spend time dealing with something unexpected on a Saturday afternoon or while on vacation. The demands on my time are consistently unpredictable!

More of a surprise to me are the various locales that I find myself working in. Our Long Grove Village Hall is in a restored 1850’s Tavern, and while quaint and charming, it is short on work space. I do not have an office, and the only place for me to work at Village Hall is in the public meeting room, when available. So when I need to meet with someone, I most often go to them. I sometimes joke that our local coffee shop, Beans & Leaves, is my office because I use it so often as a spot to be available to others who want to talk with me one on one. I have also conducted meetings in many of the shops and restaurants in our historic downtown, and really, can you beat the atmosphere of the Village Tavern for a serious discussion with a couple of merchants? Recently, a liquor license needed to be signed ASAP for our newest establishment, Finch’s Beer. Neither I nor our Village Clerk work at Village Hall more than once or twice a week, but I just happened to be seeing Heidi that evening at a charity event in Chicago, so I took the document along and we were both able to sign it. And since our office that evening was the Four Seasons, we were able to enjoy a Finch’s Beer after making it legal to be sold in Long Grove!

Of course, a major amount of my work is done on the computer or over the phone from my home office. One benefit from working at home is that you can work from wherever that home may be at the moment. I am extremely blessed to have a personal “Camp David” where I can retreat for a few days of R & R with my family. And while it is mentally helpful to occasionally get out of Dodge, I do find myself working from my vacation home on a regular basis. The most unusual places I have worked on Village issues include exotic spots like Bora Bora and Anguilla. I used to quip that a tropical vacation for me would not be complete without a call from our Village attorney detailing some new threat of litigation. My husband broke the string recently by taking me to a tiny island in the Caribbean where my cell phone would not work. It was bliss! Probably the strangest experience of working for the Village remotely is when a reporter for the Daily Herald tracked me down at my hotel in Salzburg, Austria for my thoughts on the antics going on in Long Grove during a contentious Trustee election.

I do actually have an answer for that question about how many hours I put in on a weekly basis. For a three month period last fall, I kept track of my time spent volunteering for Long Grove and it averaged out to 30 hours per week. And for the record that does not include time spent blogging!

Ghost Walk 2015

Getting ready to haunt the downtown with merchant Meghan Mariani.

Getting ready to haunt the downtown with merchant Meghan Mariani.

It’s the season for all things creepy and spooky. Last night the Long Grove Historical Society joined forces with approx. 50 other merchants, community groups, and resident volunteers to create the 3rd Annual Ghost Walk, and it was a supernatural success! Our historic downtown was overtaken by dancing zombies, living scarecrows, ghosts, ghouls, and several former members of our community who materialized for one night to tell the living their haunted stories of times past. Over 250 members of Long Grove and the surrounding area were scared silly and speaking as one of the ones doing the terrorizing, it was great fun. One cute little three-year-old declared his bravery at the beginning of my first tour of the night, only to grab hold of my hand as soon as we encountered spooky storyteller Tobin Fraley, who told us of the gruesome demise of “Gus” the mechanic. We heard about the flagpole on Towner Green used by real-life gangster Terry Drugan, and “crazy Jake Eisler” appeared once again this year from beyond the grave to menace us with his stick of dynamite. As we made our way to the Long Grove Church’s 1800’s cemetery, the Gravedigger and his “client” warned us of the perils ahead. Across the covered bridge to safety, we made a detour through the haunted trail along the creek, featuring over 50 carved pumpkins and a few demons, zombies, and hockey masked characters brandishing chainsaws. A trip past the spooks at the haunted Historical Society farmhouse, and it was back to the comfort of toasting marshmallows over the fire pit. We even had a “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man” join us–don’t worry, he did keep a safe distance from the flames! My three-year-old victim had a great time (as did so many families who participated) and he did admit that he was “a little bit scared” but could he do it again? Happy Halloween!


Starting another tour with willing “victims”