GLEN ELLYN – Dan Anderson knows a lot about Glen Ellyn’s past, from the history of its downtown to the biographies of notable village characters.
But his knowledge doesn’t stop there: Anderson can also tell current residents quite a bit about the crime and mayhem that sometimes made the small village a scandalous place to live.
From the murderous “Old Man Gentner” to a Halloween prank that involved leading a cow onto a church roof, these stories are recounted in Anderson’s book, aptly titled “24 Tales of Murder, Mayhem, Infidelity, Pranks and Other Intriguing Tidbits of Glen Ellyn History.”
The 44-year Glen Ellyn resident also regularly shares these anecdotes through presentations for local organizations. On Sept. 29, Anderson will play the role of an old-time storyteller at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society’s annual Tavern Day.
“I’m very much enjoying learning about Glen Ellyn history and talking about it,” he said.
Anderson first became involved with the society about 10 years ago after he retired from a career in magazine publishing. He’s served as the Tavern Day storyteller for about four years.
One of the challenges of playing the storyteller is picking out stories that are both entertaining and appropriate for the event’s younger audience members, Anderson said.
Historical Society Executive Director Jan Shupert-Arick said Anderson is a very important person to the organization, and his storytelling talents play a special role at Tavern Day.
“Storytelling is an art form in itself,” Shupert-Arick said. “I’ve always thought the art helped history come alive.”
The vignettes included in “24 Tales” were originally written by Anderson and fellow Glen Ellyn resident Anne Balogh for the now defunct Glen Ellyn Sun newspaper from about 2006 through 2008, Anderson said.
The book was published by the Historical Society in 2009.
Anderson hopes to share even more of his historical knowledge in a second book, possibly told from the perspective of an early inhabitant of Glen Ellyn.
One of his favorite such historic residents is Erastus Ketchum, who was known for his hunting and trapping skills.
While others may not have such a strong interest in local history as Anderson, he said understanding the past helps a community avoid repeating its previous mistakes.
“If you want to get somewhere, you better start by knowing where you’ve been before,” Anderson said.