Answer Man: Oil made in Belleville took the pain away

News-DemocratJune 4, 2014 

What can you tell me about the Creotina Chemical Co. in Belleville? My mother used Creotina Oil. It smells absolutely terrible but it takes the soreness and the swelling out of sprained ankles. Even my 30-something daughter still swears by it. Now, I've submitted one of the two bottles I have left to the Belleville Bicentennial Exhibition, but when they asked me for the story behind it, I couldn't tell them much. The most I seem to recall is that the company may have been out by the old Suppiger canning factory near Union School. -- Betty Estes, of Belleville

It was a prominent Belleville business baron who helped rub your mother and other area residents the right way for a short time about 1940.

J. Edward Yoch was a wheeler-dealer seemingly from the time he outgrew his diapers. In 1905 -- just 23 years old -- he became one of the incorporators of the International Coal and Mining Co. Seven years later, he helped found the O'Fallon Oil and Development Co., and, in 1916, he bought the Josh Taylor Coal Mine for $30,000.

He started buying land as well, including a small piece on the Public Square from the family of well-known distiller A.W. Herr. He also bought large farms and other tracts of land and divided and sold them for residential lots.

Community service was on his list of achievements, too. In the early '20s, he was going to help raise $100,000 to build a new Immaculate Conception Academy. He was a delegate to the National Rivers and Harbors Congress in 1925 in Washington, D.C., and later helped organize the King's House of Retreats.

And just a month after the stock market crashed in October 1929, he wrote a letter to President Herbert Hoover, assuring him that members of the Belleville Industrial Club would not cut wages.

But perhaps he was best-known as an "industry saver," as he was labeled in a 1940 Belleville Daily Advocate headline. At the time, the U.S. District Court in East St. Louis had chosen Yoch to turn around the failing Enterprise Foundry Co.

It certainly picked the right man. As early as 1925, Yoch took over the Koupet Auto Top Co. on South 29th Street and, although the product became obsolete with the popularity of the closed auto, Yoch was able to liquidate the company without loss to stockholders or creditors.

Seven years later, Yoch salvaged the bankrupt Roesch Enamel Range Co. and turned it into a local industry leader, saving 240 jobs. He also took over financially depressed coal mines for the benefit of miners who began operating them on a co-operative basis, according to the article.

Then, in the 1930s, he apparently became interested in health products. In 1931, the Belleville City Directory shows him as president of the Germ-Elim Co. It was right where his Koupet Auto Top Co. had been -- at the "end of South 29th Street." No exact address, but somewhere beyond the 600 block and across the railroad tracks.

Then, six years later, the Creotina Chemical Co. popped up at the same location. Unfortunately, neither Belleville paper did a story on the company, so I can't tell you where he got the idea or what was in the odoriferous stuff.

Besides, by 1943 Yoch, who lived at 17 N. Pennsylvania, apparently had turned his attention to saving Enterprise. Creotina had disappeared from the directory, and any medical secrets may have died with him on Feb. 3, 1960, at age 77.

So we'll do our best to protect one of your last two bottles when it goes on display at the Schmidt Art Gallery at Southwestern Illinois University from July 3 through Aug. 14.

I hear friends talk about "rain crows." What are those precisely? -- C.J., of Cahokia

Your friends aren't cuckoo -- but their talk of birds is.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the yellow-billed cuckoo makes a primal-sounding croaking call that it often gives in response to loud noises. As a result, its tendency to call at the sound of thunder has led to its colloquial name -- the rain crow.

Yellow-billed cuckoos are slender, long-tailed birds that manage to say well hidden in woodlands. Bold, white spots on the tail's underside are often the most visible feature. They are fairly common in the East but have become rare in the West.

Two other interesting facts: They have one of the shortest incubation periods of any bird -- as short as 17 days -- and babies are ready to leave the nest in a week. They are also one of the few birds able to eat hairy caterpillars.

Today's trivia

What prominent, nationwide organization started just after the Civil War as a small group of New York men who called themselves the Jolly Corks?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: More than 700 years ago, England's King Edward I granted a piece of land in London to goldsmiths from a part of northern Italy known as Lombardy. Not surprisingly, part of it became Lombard Street, to where in 1691 Lloyd's Coffee House -- which became insurance giant Lloyd's of London -- moved. Over the next three centuries most banks based in the United Kingdom established their home offices there, including Barclays. As a result, it is often called London's Wall Street.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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