Thursday, July 16, 2020

Bunker Hill's 8 o'clock Whistle Tradition

Pictured: Bunker Hill Lighting Plant

February 6, 1903: 
We, the undersigned, merchants of Bunker Hill, do hereby agree that we will close our respective places of business at seven o'clock p.m. each day with the exception of Saturday evening, for the period commencing with Monday, February 9, 1903, and ending with April 30, 1903.  Two medium blasts of the lighting plant whistle will give notice of the closing of the stores.

February 20, 1903:  The early closing problem, so mythically solved by some of our businessmen, has become rudely intricate after a brief existence of one week.  There was apparently no peace in such an arrangement from the beginning, and it was not uncommon each evening to see some of our good merchants standing in the by-ways and alleys, or peering around the corner to ascertain whether or not the other fellow had really closed up.  One evening, an unfaithful brother was spied selling a pair of shoes after the hour for closing, and then the dander was up.  Two or three others threw open their doors and declared they would keep open until midnight.  This led more to lay themselves liable to breach of promise, and the whole thing, it seems, has been thrown up.  We suppose our merchants think it is soon enough to shut up when the sheriff comes around.

By special arrangement the hour of closing of the stores in Bunker Hill has been changed from 7 to 8 o'clock.  The curfew blast of the lighting plant whistle at 8 o'clock will give notice of the closing of stores.  All merchants who signed the former agreement have pledged their word of honor to stand by this agreement, which became effective last evening.

That began the tradition of the 8 o'clock whistle.  For years, the children of Bunker Hill, mine included, knew when they heard the 8 o'clock whistle, it was time to be in their own yards.  The whistle is a 117 year old tradition.  I suppose today's children don't hear the 8 o'clock whistle because they are in their houses on their electronic devices.  Depending on where you live in town, and depending on the direction of the wind in the evening, you many not hear the whistle.  This is a tradition unique to our town.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, July 16, 2020.  

Stanton, Carl L. . "Bunker Hill News 1903." In Bunker Hill Revisited, Volume Four, 1901-1910, pp. 37, 39-40 Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 2003. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.

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