Being a historical area, the City of St. Charles is full of houses that have survived for generations. Not only do these quaint homes provide the city with character and small town charm, but they can also connect its residents and bridge the generation gap.
Back in September, David Eckhoff, a substitute bus driver for the City of St. Charles School District, was riding on the #24 bus in order to get a feel for the route he would one day cover, when it pulled up to a house with which he was quite familiar. As the bus lurched to a halt, 8th grader Joe Joersz hopped up the two sizable steps onto the bus and sat across from Eckhoff. Before the bus pulled away to its prescribed destination, Eckhoff got Joe’s attention.
“If I had to guess, I’d say that window is yours,” Eckhoff said, pointing to one of the glass panes on the home’s front facade.
“Yeah, it is,” Joe said perplexed. “How do you know that?”
“Because my parents gave me the same room when I lived there as a kid.”
Not only is Eckhoff an employee of the City of St. Charles School District, he was also a student, having graduated from St. Charles High in 1975 and had previously lived in the house where the Joerszs presently reside.
Amused, Joe asked Eckhoff a few questions about his time at the house before heading into Hardin Middle School to start his day. And that’s where the story ended; two people five decades removed created a bond through a shared space. Until February.
Five months later, Eckhoff filled in on the afternoon route for the #24 bus. As he approached the last stop for the day, he noticed the familiar scene from his childhood. When the buses squealing brakes stopped, Joe shuffled through the aisle, making his way to the door. Before exiting the bus, Joe posed a question.
“Is your name David Eckhoff?” Joe asked.
“Yes, it is,” Eckhoff replied. “How do you know that?”
“Hold on a sec, I have something for you.”
Joe bolted towards the house and came out a minute later. In his hand was a Cub Scout hat. Joe handed Eckhoff the hat and he flipped it over. On the underside of the crown, against a mustard colored fabric, written with fine red pen in his mother’s script was the name “David Eckhoff.”
The Joersz family uncovered the hat while in the attic of their home pulling out Halloween decorations. The hat was under some leaves and insulation which, apparently, helped preserve it, because other than some fraying around the edges, the hat was in fantastic shape.
“The hat fell out of the attic opening when we were moving boxes,” Joe said. “When I saw there was a name in it, I remembered he (Eckhoff) told me about living there.”
Since Eckhoff is a substitute bus driver, Joe wasn’t sure if he’d see him again, but held onto the hat just in case. Eckhoff is glad that he did.
“Seeing the hat brought back so many memories,” said Eckhoff, who estimated the hat at 50 years old. “I really enjoyed my time in the Cub Scouts so it’s nice to have something from then.”
Eckhoff commends Joe on returning the hat to him, saying that most kids would have not remembered or cared enough to do so. For Joe, it seemed like the right thing to do.
“I would hope (someone) would do the same for me if they found something of mine,” Joe said.
And who knows, perhaps 50 years from now, one of St. Charles’ brick abodes will relinquish a childhood memory of Joe’s.