Idyllic Elkhorn preserved in '50s TV program
The Christmas card displays have returned to the courthouse square in downtown Elkhorn, a reminder of the city's prominence as the Christmas Card Town.
The brightest spotlight may have shone on our county seat in the 1950s.
If there was a poster city for idyllic, small-town middle America, Elkhorn was it.
As contributing writer and former editor of The Week Herb Moering reports in this week's cover story, Elkhorn's fame was born through the paintings of artist Cecile Johnson.
Johnson had painted the scenes she had noticed during a visit to the city in the early 1950s.
Then, in 1958 several of the paintings were reproduced in the December issue of Ford Times magazine, bringing national attention to Elkhorn.
The city had already gained national prominence from a March of Time documentary about Elkhorn that was broadcast on national television in 1952.
We've posted an excerpt of the broadcast here, and it's fascinating to watch, even 54 years later.
Stars of the program include Elkhorn Independent editor Mud Eames, shown making the rounds of downtown Elkhorn looking for news tips for his column.
(Moering, by the way, was editor of the Elkhorn Independent until joining The Week in the early 1980s, making him another in a distinguished succession of editors at the Independent.)
Many of the landmarks and businesses mentioned in the 1952 film are still with us today.
Elkhorn Chemical is mentioned, along with both the Getzen and Holton band instrument companies. At the time, Frank Holton was the biggest factory in the area, employing 165 workers.
The high school band, under the direction of Ted Binger, who also leads the Elkhorn city band, is in rehearsal for the Christmas show.
The program pays a visit to the home contractor Robert Magill, along with his wife, Mary Jane and two children, Kirk and Diane.
And be sure to check out the landmarks downtown. The building that is now Moy's can be seen on the corner of Walworth and Wisconsin streets.
There's also a shot of the old courthouse-no, not the one that's downtown now, but the one that preceded that.
Times do change, and a few things in the program didn't ring a bell. For example, the new agricultural school, which was to be built the following year. Does anyone remember what happened to that school?
If you do, you can add your comments here.
In the meantime, check out the program online to see how much has changed and how much has really stayed the same.
~Dan Plutchak, editor