B. W. Oak will celebrate his 40th birthday on May 12, 2017, at his residence at 801 Springfield Road, East Peoria. B. W. (Burr White) has lived his entire life at this location. The general public recognizes him as the stately oak tree at the entrance of Lincoln Grade School where he has become the unofficial symbol of the school. He is known in horticultural circles as Quercus macrocarpa; that’s a fancy name meaning the cap on his acorn extends almost completely over the nut. He was planted in front of the school in 1977 by first-grade students of Mary Serkowich.
One of her students, Jim Skrine, had brought a handful of acorns to school and she had the class plant nine of them in paper cups. The strongest was transplanted outside. Plans were for Arbor Day, but inclement weather delayed it to May 12. I spoke to Jim’s parents recently and they related that at that time they lived on Par Three Lane and Jim carried water in his wagon to water the tree during the summer following the planting. Jim’s father, also Jim, was the athletic director at East Peoria High School and said his son, now a resident of Downers Grove, drives by the tree whenever in the East Peoria area.
Miss Serkowich, now 97 years old, taught first grade for 42 years at East Peoria grade schools, first at Richland Grade School and then at Lincoln. She used the tree as a teaching guide and copies of her B.W. Oak booklets may be found in the East Peoria Historical Society’s Museum on Pekin Avenue. She started the birthday celebration years ago and even after retiring would bring cookies to the party.
Lincoln Grade School is situated at 801 Springfield Road, East Peoria, on seven acres of Caterpillar Tractor Company’s former proving grounds. Caterpillar conveyed this ground to the Trustees of Schools for the benefit of School District 86 on April 16, 1947. A brick structure containing four classrooms was constructed in 1948. Kindergarten occupied one of the rooms and first and second grades, third and fourth grades, and fifth and sixth grades each shared one of the remaining three rooms.
With the expansion of housing adjacent to Springfield Road bringing more students, a needed addition was added in 1962. The construction of Don Shute Grade School in 1970 relieved the crowded conditions at Lincoln by receiving many of Lincoln’s students. Richland Grade School students were added to Lincoln in 1973 when Richland Grade School was closed and when Jefferson Grade School was closed in 1980, its students were absorbed by Lincoln, and students in part of the old Richland area were transferred to Glendale School. In 1993, District 86 adopted the sister school concept whereby each grade school was partnered with another school. Students living within the boundaries of the two schools would attend kindergarten through second grade at one school and third grade through fifth grade at the sister school. Lincoln Grade School was partnered with Don Shute Grade School and currently serves third, fourth and fifth grade students.
Compiled April 2017 by Frank Borror
The East Peoria Historical Society is located at 423-326 Pekin Avenue. It is dedicated to the collection and preservation of local history. If anyone has information or pictures regarding East Peoria they would share please contact Frank Borror at 696-9227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.