Life in Montgomery During the Great Depression

By way of introduction, I'm Gene Michaels, a lifelong resident of Montgomery. I have spent my entire life living and working in the Village. I want to share my memories along with stories told to me by my father and others of his generation. Montgomery of the 1930s was a typical small, rural community caught in the throes of the "Great Depression." The original Village was between the Fox River on the east, the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad on the west, the Kane County line on the south, and Riverside Cemetery to the north.

With a population of 550 people, the population sign on Route 31 never changed until after World War II. Montgomery was a satellite community with direct access to downtown Aurora. Transportation was provided by street cars and, later, buses along the Aurora city lines. Upon mentioning that you were from Montgomery, you were viewed as being from a faraway rural community, when in reality, you were closer to downtown Aurora than a goodly part of that city itself. I mention downtown Aurora because, in the 30s, it was the hub of the lower Fox River Valley.

Town meetings of the 30's were as much a smoker as a business meeting. When you consider the fact that one man, Ed Keasler, was both the Police Department and road maintenance man, budgeting was much, much more straightforward. Refuse removal was the backyard rubbish burner and the town dump at the south end of Main Street, available at your convenience.

I grew up in this setting and was left with many fond memories. If I had to make one comment about Montgomery of the 30s, it would be that nothing seemed organized, but everything got done. We always had a baseball team, but early signup was not required. Just bring your mitt and be ready to play. The hardships of the '30s brought about by the Depression created a bond among people that led to a strong community spirit. This spirit of community made these times a lot more enjoyable.

Written by Gene Michaels

Read more about Gene Michaels and his family's grocery store in downtown Montgomery in The Patch's 2011 feature article,
Remembering Michaels Brothers - Where Everybody Knew Your Name.