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Back to the '50s

STANDARD – Author, educator and local resident Ron Bluemer is the next presenter in the Putnam County Library's 75th anniversary series on July 15 at the Putnam County Community Center. Beginning at 7 p.m., Bluemer will be presenting on the 1950s in the Illinois Valley.

In his presentation, Bluemer will include topics such as the stories of the Illinois Valley veterans who fought in the Korean Conflict; civil defense preparation during the Cold War with the Russians; illegal gambling in Streator, LaSalle and Spring Valley; and reports of flying saucers over LaSalle and Ottawa.

"This is cool," Bluemer said. "It was the era of the flying saucers, and I got the military version of what was actually was happening, so I present all sides of the story."

Bluemer said his presentation is a variety of incidents and issues that happened in Putnam, LaSalle and Bureau counties in the '50s that go well together. One of the more colorful personalities in the '50s in Putnam County was Trader Jack.

"I had John Redshaw come in. He was dying to get the story into a book," he said. "He had all the original pictures ... The problem has been trying to find out who killed him. I think the only one that might of known is Durley Boyle, and he's long gone."

Trader Jack owned the old Granville Bank building where he was eventually found, murdered on Sept. 27, 1955. His wife, Mary, found his body on the day he was killed. The case is still unsolved.

Other famous folks from the area include Clarence Mulford of Streator who was the author of the Hopalong Cassidy book series. Mulford wrote books in the series from 1907 to 1941. Hopalong Cassidy franchise was made into movies and books in the 1950s.

The Cold War in the 1950s had a definite impact on the Illinois Valley. A secret military base in rural Streator which is now farmland off Route 17 is another topic Bluemer will discuss. Built as a training site for radar technicians, men went through a 10-week set of courses designed to teach them to help protect Chicago.

"Every day the Air Force guys were stationed here. They would be transported by an Air Force bus from Streator to the base where they trained. All the guys worked on what was called the DEW line, which was short for the Distant Early Warning line where we had all our radar set-ups. All those guys from Canada and the United States had to train in Streator," said Bluemer.

Putnam County Library Director Bobbie Morgan is looking forward to Bluemer's presentation.

"I'm excited to learn about the history of the Putnam County area from someone as knowledgeable as Ron," she said.

Bluemer, who is a self-published author will have his book, "Back to the 50's: Impact on the Illinois Valley" available for purchase after his presentation. He has written 12 books throughout the years. The books are also available for purchase at IV Foods, the Starved Rock Lodge and Visitors Center and at the Illinois Valley Community College bookstore where he is an adjunct instructor.

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