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The Village Street Named “Rugeley” … and Why

After World War II, the U.S. State Department encouraged American communities to get more involved with the people of other countries. And, Western Springs stepped up to the challenge.

Plaque Commemorating Rugeley Relationship
Plaque Commemorating Rugeley Relationship

In 1956, Western Springs’ village officials became interested in the State Department’s new “People to People” program designed to build better understanding between the peoples of the world.  So, our town asked the State Department to help select a similar sized town in Europe with which it might correspond and exchange ideas.

 

In response, the Village was paired with a town in England named Rugeley. Like Western Springs, Rugeley was a small-to-medium sized suburb of a major metropolitan area, i.e., Birmingham.  But, the towns were separated by no less than 3,851 miles.

 

Despite the geographic barrier, regular correspondence began between the two communities, focusing on how the two towns’ governments operated and how the people themselves lived.

 

 In 1957, the Western Springs village president and his wife travelled to England and, while there, they visited Rugeley. Surprisingly, their visit was a major local event. The guests from Western Springs were invited to tour the town’s schools, view some representative homes and businesses, and participate in the dedication of a new street named “Western Springs Road”.

 

In the following year, Western Springs arranged a reciprocal visit to our town by Rugeley representatives. While no public funds were used to finance the visit, our town put its best foot forward.  In addition to a parade, the Governor of Illinois and British Consul spoke to the assembled crowd. And, a large granite boulder and bronze plaque were placed on a corner in what was then the brand-new Springdale subdivision. Thereafter, the street was to be called “Rugeley Road”.  See photo.

 

In 1962, the relationship between the two towns took an even greater step forward when three representatives from each town  were invited by the State Department to communicate with each other via Telstar, the first commercial satellite system. This was one of the first international telephone calls placed via satellite.

 

In subsequent years, residents of both cities have visited each other’s towns, often resulting in the exchange of gifts, such as plaques and crystal goblets, as well as student exchanges and soccer team visits. According to one account, Rugeley even named a school after Western Springs.

 

So, if you are visiting England this summer, find Rugeley on your map and be sure to photograph yourself in front of the “Western Springs Road” sign.  

 

Each week, the Western Springs Historical Society presents a “Blast from the Past”. To view prior stories, visit us at www.westernspringshistory.org.  

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