The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website
I was born in Missouri and my first train ride occurred before I was six months old, being held in my Grandmothers arms on an Illinois Central passenger train bound for a place called Rockford. Yes - Rockford, a city that was thriving, a job for anyone who wanted one, the city was growing, and downtown was the bustling heart of the city. You could shop for everything downtown or obtain almost any service and the banks, theaters and restaurants were plentiful. We had well-kept neighborhoods, where you knew your neighbors and the kids would walk to school in groups, you respected your elders. You could ride your bicycle or skate around the area mostly carefree. You could walk downtown to the movies and afterward stop by the hobby shops or record stores or grab a soda. And it seemed everywhere you looked new neighborhoods, stores and factories were popping up all over. A time when watching television was a privilege and you had to get up and change the channel to select from two or three stations. We did not have cable television, microwave ovens, cell phones or many other modern conveniences. We did have family and friends, we could leave the windows open, doors unlocked. We always could find something to do. Life was good. That is the Rockford that I remember. That's some of the Rockford I want to share with you.
In 2006 I started a website for the local neighborhood I lived in for the benefit of that neighborhood but designed it so it could benefit the entire city. I decided to include a portion of my postcard collection as an added bonus. The response to that was tremendous. I took out several domain names shortly afterward, including RockfordPostcards.com but I realized I had more to share than just postcards. Thus RockfordReminisce.com was born, a place to share my collection of postcards, pictures, advertisements, history and everything else I had collected over the years, and new items as they are added to my collection. After all why should I keep it all on a shelf or stored in a box collecting dust when I can share it with you. RockfordReminisce.com was born in early 2008 and as I do research I strive for accuracy on the different events, people, buildings, and everything Rockford had to offer and this takes time. Therefore the site will continue to grow and evolve as new information is discovered and new items are added. My personal collection includes many old and collectible items from all over but my favorite collectibles are the ones from Rockford including furniture, signs, city directories, catalogs, telephone directories, yearbooks, maps, atlases, assorted pamphlets and books, bottles and tins and of course the postcards and many items too numerous to list. Many other sources of information were utilized in researching Rockford history that include but are not limited to assistance from Midway Village and Museum Center, Rockford Public Library, Tinker Swiss Cottage, Bob Bertolasi, Bob Anderson and the public who has contributed stories and other items to this site. I especially want to thank all of the people who have stepped forward as friends and helped contribute and shared your knowledge with this website. I thank all of you.
In the beginning Rockford was alive with hopes and dreams for the future and we had the people with that vision. The developers, the industrialists, the inventors. We had immigrants and domestic families here, the melting pot of the Midwest. There was a time when people could not wait to move to Rockford for the many jobs created by the rapidly growing industries. Stores sprung up to supply the needs of the fast growing population and housing could not be built fast enough. As the industries grew so did Rockford. The city evolved over the years, from the early furniture factories to the knitting mills and just about everything else in between. The label "Made in Rockford" was known around the world. That label also signified the high quality products churned out by skilled craftsman. Although most every neighborhood had a small grocery store or two, Downtown was the hub of shopping, banking, entertainment and transportation. Other major shopping areas were Seventh Street, 14th Avenue (Broadway) and the North End.
In the mid - 1950's came one of Rockford's biggest opportunities when Interstate 90 was being planned. If only it had been built going through the center of town instead of in the cornfields far east of the city limits, we would be living in a much different city than we do today. Downtown started on a slow but steady downward spiral as the city progressed east toward the new highway. As residents moved eastward shopping centers soon followed like Highcrest Center, Rockford Plaza and later Colonial Village as the population in those areas increased. The city would follow along East State Street where chain stores and restaurants wanted to locate. Rockford College would abandon its long time Downtown campus for this new frontier as would Saint Anthony Hospital. Later the U. S. 20 Highway Bypass took its toll on our urban business core. After several economic downturns and cheap labor elsewhere, companies would leave Rockford for new pastures, or close completely. While talking to several older folks who had spent their entire lives in this city most told me the same thing, "Rockford is a dying city".
I disagree that our city is dying, it is certainly not the factory city it once was, but just as the knitting and furniture industries faded away in the past, Rockford always somehow reinvented itself and will again. We have one of the best park systems and conservatory, art museums and children's museum and a top rated Japanese Gardens along with a top notch yet under-served airport. Our center city area will never be the retail hub it once was but it too will evolve into a destination where people will want to live, work, shop, and play and be entertained.
I have an extensive collection of Rockford postcards, city directories, yearbooks, Rockford historical, atlases and pictorial books, pamphlets and brochures, newspapers and magazines, maps and advertising items, made in Rockford items, a large digital collection of items and much more. I utilize them all to verify the facts I share on the RockfordReminisce.com website. My search for new items continues on an ongoing basis.
Donations to keep this site online are appreciated. I utilize PayPal for secure transactions. You do not need a PayPal account to donate as they will accept credit cards. If you wish to make a donation via check, please contact me for a mailing address. I have never made any profit with this site and any money collected helps defer the cost of server access, domain name renewals and software utilized to build this site, or will be invested back into research materials so I can continue to add new items for your enjoyment and to guarantee that the site will be online for years to come. This sites aim is to keep some of Rockford's past alive online, for the "old timers" to remember our past and to show the future generations where we have been in the past as they build our future. I hope that you find this site not only educational, but entertaining as well. Any feedback or additional information, pictures, postcards or advertising will be gladly accepted by using email. This site will keep evolving as more new items, history and information is added and new galleries are opened. Please bear with me as the site evolves. I hope you enjoy your visit to the different galleries as much as I have had in researching and creating this site for you and would hope that you will keep coming back for more. Once again I thank you for your support. Doug Cohen, Your Webmaster
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