The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • 75th anniversary of Eleanor Roosevelt visit was Thursday

  • HARRISBURG--Lida "Torchy" Schork remembers walking with her mother to Harrisburg High School to hear a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt.


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  • Lida "Torchy" Schork remembers walking with her mother to Harrisburg High School to hear a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt.
    The first lady was in town in June 1936 on relatively short notice to deliver a speech at the high school. Schork, now 89, lived at 29 W. Park St. near the high school with her parents and brother at the time. She was an incoming freshman.
    "My mother found out (Roosevelt) was coming to Harrisburg and she said, 'You and I are going,'" Schork said.
    They walked over and took seats in what is now Bonnell Gym.
    "It was just 'the gym' at that time," Schork said.
    "We weren't in school, but they opened up the school for the speech."
    She was seated up high, but Schork had a good view.
    "I couldn't tell you two things she said, but the fact that my mother said we were going was impressive to me," Schork said.
    Schork said her mother wasn't well educated herself, but placed a lot of emphasis on education and on women doing good in the world.
    "And she was an admirer of Eleanor Roosevelt," Schork said.
    Her mother was not particularly political, but always voted. That was typical of Schork's family.
    Roosevelt was well-received by the people of Harrisburg and the gymnasium was packed for the speech. Roosevelt's appearance wasn't a "women's event," Schork recalled. It also wasn't a campaign stop, though 1936 was an election year - Franklin Roosevelt would go on to win a second term handily in November 1936.
    Schork always observed what people wore - her sister was operating Myron's clothing store by that time.
    "I was not impressed with her dress. She had on sensible shoes. She had on a long dress. It was just kind of plain, I thought," Schork said.
    Schork doubts there are many other people who still remember the appearance by Eleanor Roosevelt. She's 89 now - anyone with memories would have been a child or young teenager like her, Schork said. She is one of few in the Harrisburg Township High School Class of 1940 still alive, even though the class was the largest to pass through the high school at that time. The class had well over 200 students, she said.
    Principal Harry Taylor liked to have big assemblies. There were not enough desks for her class at the assemblies, Schork recalled.
    Seeing the world through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl is, of course, different than the view of an 89-year-old.
    "I think now about how young I was, and naive," Schork said.
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