The Trusted Adviser November 2009 | Volume 2 - Number 7

IN THE NEWS | ATG and Retiring Board Member Donate to Red Cross

ATG Board Member Jim Elson Retires, Directs Donation to American Red Cross

James J. Elson (retired ATG Board Member, former Chairman) of Canton, Illinois, has done many things for his community in his lifetime. Recently he helped preserve a little piece of American history.

The local home for the Fulton-Schuyler County Chapter of the American Red Cross, constructed as a family home shortly after WWII, needed substantial repair after a spring storm destroyed its roof and portions of the interior. Elson allocated what would have been a $1,500 retirement gift from Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund, Inc. (ATG) toward the repair costs.



Canton attorney James J. Elson (second from left) allocated a retirement gift from Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund, Inc. (ATG) toward the repair costs of the American Red Cross building on Second Street in Canton. Shown here are Mary Beth McCarthy from ATG; James Elson; Nancy Bentley (Director, American Red Cross, Fulton-Schuyler County); and Jerry Gorman, also from ATG. Elson served on the ATG Board of Directors from 1970 through is recent retirement; ATG made the $1,500 donation in Elson's name.

The ATG donation in Elson's name was recently presented to local Red Cross director Nancy Bentley, Friday, September 11, with representatives from ATG present. Jim was a founding member of ATG (became a shareholder in 1964 when the company began), and served on its board from 1970 - 2008. "I'm honored to make a contribution. The Red Cross does important work for our community, and its building isone of a kindin Canton; in fact, only a handful of these remain in Illinois," Elson remarked at a recent gathering.

The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Families in the Canton area received assistance from the Red Cross after their homes were damaged from the same powerful storm that peeled the steel shingles from the local facility's 59-year-old roof.

Elson's firm, with Jim's son James Elson as managing partner, is still an active ATG member today. The elder Elson's service to ATG included a term as chairman in the 1970s, plus many committee positions. A prominent attorney not just in Canton but statewide through his many roles within the local bar and the Illinois State Bar Association, Jim has been a tireless advocate of ATG and its founding principles, which include consumer advocacy and the importance of legal representation when buying or selling a home. His contributions to ATG over the years have been many, but he is perhaps best known for his early work in designing its first logo and several print advertisement campaigns. "Jim's efforts made a major contribution toward building name recognition and acceptance among lawyers in all corners of Illinois. We are grateful to Jim for his many years of service and support," ATG President, Peter J. Birnbaum. In addition to the donation, ATG representatives presented Elson with a crystal bowl, personalized with his name and dates of service.

No strangers to community service and charitable works, Jim and his wife Nancy have served in many capacities in the community and continue this service today. They are the parents of five adult children (son James and his wife Alice reside in Canton) and have twelve grandchildren.





ATG Senior Vice President Jerry Gorman (right) presents attorney James Elson of Canton with an etched crystal "Celebration Bowl" to mark Elson's retirement from the ATG Board of Directors, a where he served for 38 years while practicing law in Canton.




  Attorney Jim Elson designed ATG's first logo and drew its first display ads in the mid 1960s. At its 30-year celebration in 1994, the company honored this specific contribution and presented Jim with a framed keepsake featuring his renderings.


The Lustron Home: A Piece of Americana

Lustron Home exteriorThe Red Cross building Elson's donation helps support isn't just any building: It is made almost entirely of steel and known as a Lustron home. Lustron homes were invented by Carl Strandlund, the son of Swedish immigrants who settled in Moline, Illinois, around the turn of the century. The structures were made of porcelain-enameled steel, mass produced on an auto-style assembly line, delivered to home sites, and assembled by local workers. Thought to be the answer to the post-WWII housing crisis where 12 million veterans were returning to the States, the Lustron home represents an era of great optimism and new beginnings.

While there were variations, the standard Lustron home was a 1,000 square-foot, two-bedroom design that cost the homeowner around $10,000. Among its advertised virtues, it was considered to be stronger than traditional wood frame homes, maintenance free, and fire proof. Every room contained space-saving built-ins, and interior and exterior surfaces were porcelain-enameled metal-a favorite feature of Red Cross staff whose calendars, memos, notices, and even some décor items are affixed to walls with magnets. The identifying marks on the Lustron exterior included the V-shaped zig-zag downspout accent and the square panels in quirky pink, surf blue, maize yellow, dove gray, or desert tan. The Canton Lustron sports its original dove gray panels, but the zig-zag downspout has been replaced. While orders exceeded 20,000 between 1946-1948, the Lustron Corporation built less than 2,500 before declaring bankruptcy in 1950. Production delays, cost overruns, and lack of an efficient distribution strategy all contributed to Lustron's failure. Some reports include politics, labor union issues, and other controversial factors.

Reports indicate approximately 2,000 Lustron homes remain in 36 states, but well-preserved Lustron homes like Canton's are more scarce. The Lustron legacy — the optimism of the postwar era — is part of American History that, thanks in part to Jim Elson, remains in Canton today.





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[Last update: 11-11-09]