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50 years ago, city became family’s home

Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Fifty years ago, on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, my wife and I, with our two small children, arrived in Sterling and drove across the Rock River on a two-lane bridge.

The National Manufacturing and Lawrence Brothers buildings helped create our first impression. Under the railroad and up the hill, we saw Kline’s Department Store on the right with the Travel Lodge and Leath Furniture on the left. At the intersection, we noticed two large banks. 

We proceeded north to the hospital, turned right as had been instructed, and proceeded to the Sterling Junior High School. We were met by Mr. Gunnar Benson and Mr. Harold Challand.

After an interview and a brief tour of the building, I was offered a teaching contract. We were then taken to the Miami Hotel for lunch. 

A few years later, we drove downtown one evening and watched as flames totally destroyed the Miami Hotel. While the buildings that greeted our first visit downtown are present, only one bank houses the same business, although by a different name. 

World War II was recent history and the baby boom generation was starting to impact schools. Six new teachers were present as school began in fall 1963.

We stayed in a Rock Falls motel overnight and attended Calvary Baptist Church on Sunday morning. We were invited to the Chuck Kempf family home for dinner, thus beginning a 50-year friendship. 

From that original faculty (to my knowledge), Ms. Jean McCue and I are the only remaining residents.

It was a good choice to come to Sterling, and we have enjoyed our 50 years in a very friendly community.

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