© 2023 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Major tech upgrade underway at WGLT. Thanks for your patience!

When Queen Elizabeth II began her reign, Bloomington-Normal was very different

Queen Elizabeth II pictured in 2012.
Eddie Mulholland
WPA Pool/Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II pictured in 2012.

Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96. When she ascended the throne in 1952, most present-day Britons, and most Americans for that matter, were not yet alive. Queen Elizabeth ruled for a period that is about a third of the length of U.S. history.

Since then, America and Bloomington-Normal have changed almost beyond recognition. As an example, consider the following facts provided by the Mclean County Museum of History about the year 1952.

  • Bloomington population: about 34,000 — now nearly 79,000.
  • Normal population: around 9,800 — now nearly 53,000.
  • ISNU (now Illinois State University) enrollment: about 2,500, — now just over 20,000
  • Normal Community High School's enrollment was about 500 — now NCHS and Normal West enrollment tops 3,700 combined.
  • Leading Bloomington-Normal employers: Eureka Williams Corp.; Thor Corp. (washing machines); and State Farm, Insurance Co. Those were the only three local businesses to employ more than 500 people. Now there are about 16 businesses and institutions that have 500 workers or more.
  • There were three large hotels in downtown Bloomington: the Illinois House; Tilden Hall; and the Rogers — there are none now
  • There were three hospitals: Mennonite, Brokaw, and St. Joseph's, as well as the McLean County Tuberculosis Sanitorium.
  • There were more than 200 state wards boarding at Norman's Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School that is long-closed.
  • Mercer Avenue was the eastern edge of Bloomington's city limits.
  • There were six department stores in downtown Bloomington, all within a few blocks of each other. Three were local (Klemm's, Livingston's and Roland's), and three were national (Sears, Ward's, and Penny's). Eastland Mall would not open until the following decade.
  • There were more than 75 grocery stores in McLean County. The vast majority were "mom-and-pop" corner groceries.
  • We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Related Content