• I STOPPED at the Dairy Queen in South Shores and decided to go inside and get something to eat -- instead of using the drive-through window. After I ordered, the cashier gave me a number (57), I got my drink and headed to a table to wait for my meal to be brought to me. When the young woman brought the meal, she forgot to take the large plastic number (57) with her. (Taking the number indicates the meal has been delivered to the table or booth.) So, about 20 minutes later, after I finished my meal and put the remnants in the waste can -- I marched up to the counter and waived the number 57 in front of three or four employees and said, “I haven’t received my meal, yet!” A look of horror, mixed with embarrassment, came over their faces and the supervisor asked, “Will you check on 57 and see what happened to his meal?” I then put the “57” on the counter and said, “I’m joking. I received my meal and have eaten it. The number 57 was left on my table.” A look of relief came over their faces and a couple of them laughed about it. Still, maybe I should use the drive-through window for a couple of months before going back inside. Just think...if I was retired, I could have all the time I needed to go in places and make a nuisance of myself. I would be banned by every restaurant and store in town after only a few months!
• MORE THAN a few times I’ve mentioned how fast the traffic flows up Franklin Street in front of the downtown post office. Most days, when I walk to the post office, crossing at the crosswalk is a challenge because, when cars get the green light a block away, it’s like the start of the Indy 500 by the time they reach the front of the post office! Those cars cover that block in a very short amount of time! I’ve always wanted to carry a green racing flag with me (the kind used in NASCAR or Indy races), pull it out of my coat and wave it like I’m a flagman starting the Indy 500 as all of the cars go blasting by! That would be fun and release a lot of frustration -- plus get a lot of puzzled looks from the drivers. • THE OTHER day I was nearly run over by someone driving fast on South Franklin Street -- at the Main Street intersection. Against the light a woman came flying through the intersection (in a car, of course) and was in the lane next to the one I was crossing. She quickly changed to my lane and intentionally almost hit me! Then she went back to the lane where she had been when I saw her coming. I don’t know what her problem was but I don’t think we have any readers who are disgruntled enough to kill the editor! Maybe she belongs to ISIS. Wait a minute! Probably not! Since the driver was a woman, they would probably behead her for driving a car, or attempting to have “contact” with a man who was not her husband. I just waved to her and now she’s wondering if I recognized her as being the intersection assassin.
• I KNOW it’s a little thing to mention, but sometimes it’s the little things that can drive you nuts. It seems that most times when I buy a fish sandwich at a drive-through window, the fish and ingredients look like they were slapped on the bun by a hateful robot. I like fish fillet sandwiches but I find it mildly irritating that half of the fillet is often hanging out one side of the bun! It’s like the head of a dead animal with its tongue hanging out. Shouldn’t there be some rule that the fillet is centered on the bun instead of half of it hanging out? I think the next time I buy a fish fillet and I get the half-on-the-bun-treatment, I’m going to take the sandwich back and tell the cashier that my sandwich is dead -- because its tongue is hanging out the side! I know I come from the old school where “product presentation” was important, but is it too much to ask to place my hamburger or fish fillet in the center of a bun? I call that a “balanced meal”. That’s the kind of thing we should be talking about in this presidential campaign -- “bunafied” issues.
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Musings On Life In Decatur's 'Auto World'
• I had to take “Christine”, my “possessed” car, to a local dealer so he could fix some defect that the manufacturer warned owners could be a problem. It was something to do with the button that raises and lowers seats that could malfunction. As you know, if you’ve read some earlier columns about “Christine”, when it comes to that car, my being ejected through the roof by a possible faulty seat control is the least of my worries! The dealer did a great job correcting the problem and Christine didn’t start up and run out of the garage even once during the procedure!
• A couple of months ago, I wrote that some drivers hadn’t adjusted to driving in the left lane on South Franklin at Wood Street. That’s where the new streetscape design has a curb jutting out and blocking that lane forcing all lanes to angle to the right as they head on through downtown. Some drivers still haven’t adjusted. The lane divider lines are not that clear and, when I am driving in the left lane the driver next to me sometimes thinks I am pulling over into his lane! I’ve received a few horn blasts and the “No. 1” finger sign resulting from some close calls -- and I’m the one who is driving in the correct lane! To my knowledge the “finger sign” is not something taught in high school driver’s training classes.
• While I’m on the subject of car horns, my previous car that I drove for several years had a horn that never honked. It taught me a lot of patience and other drivers must have thought I was one of the most polite drivers on the road because I never honked my horn. I’ve had my present car for about a year and I’ve never used the horn -- except when I bought the car to see if it worked. I guess having a horn that didn’t work for so many years, trained me not to use my car horn even when it works!
• I walked over to the “Cruise 11 To Remember 9/11” event in Central Park Sunday afternoon and, I don’t know about anyone else, but those classic car shows give me a real flashback to my teenage years through seeing the same model(s) of cars I once owned. There was a 1955 Chevy that was exactly like the one I had back then. I never gave a thought during those years, that, some day, the cars I drove would be considered “classics”, be in car shows and worth a lot of money. That was back when motorists drove their cars, instead of being driven by them with all the “warning lights, sounds and voices” going off.
• Thanks to the guy who recently rescued a “damsel in distress” when her car’s horn wouldn’t stop honking (apparently tripped by the security system) in the 100 block of South Water Street -- right in front of our office building. After she unsuccessfully tried to stop it from honking a young man ran over and did something to disable it. The woman gave him a big hug in gratitude. Why didn’t I go out and fix her horn? Are you joking? I can’t even control my own car!
• Sirius gave me free trial radio programming for my car where I could enjoy commercial-free music from one of several channels. The channel I selected was playing Don McLean’s “American Pie” (actually recorded in 1971) when I left the municipal parking garage heading for home -- and the song was ending just as I was pulling into my garage at home. That means I listened to only one song on the channel for that whole “trip” from downtown to the southwest side of Decatur. I’ll stick to talk radio.
• November 1st is a really important day for car owners like me. Daylight Savings Time ends and, for the first time since March 8th, the digital clock in my car will be correct -- instead of being one hour off! Sure, I could adjust the clock when the time changes in the spring, but then I wouldn’t have an item to finish this column -- and Nov. 1st wouldn’t be as special. (Big Smile.)
Photos Of Mayor's Office Remind Me Of
Another Time In My Life
I WAS looking for some photos in our files today and I came across two that were shot on my last day in the mayor’s office at City Hall a little over seven years ago. It seems like only yesterday. One of the reasons it doesn’t seem that long ago to me is because I’ve continued to write and speak about City Hall, not only in the City Beat column each week, but also appearing on the “City Hall Insider” on WSOY’s Byers & Co. program for an hour every Thursday morning at 7:00. I’ve been commenting on Brian Byers’ program, either as mayor or former mayor, for the past 12 years.
EXCEPT for several months between the time I left office and Mike McElroy was elected mayor, for the last 12 years, the two of us maintained a close bond regarding city government, talking and meeting about the mayor’s job and issues that confront the city. I was in my sixth year when I left office and Tuna had just finished his sixth year when he suddenly passed away last month. OVER the past 12 years I’ve had the opportunity to talk and write about city government from a position that very few editors and publishers experience. I’ve not only written about our city and government for decades from the outside looking in, but also from the inside looking out during the years I served as mayor. There are times in my column that I mention the fact that I was mayor, not to boast, but to point out that the reason I know the background of particular votes and council actions, is because I was there chairing the meetings and dealing with city issues. I don’t have to use second hand information. I was there.
MONDAY, Mayor Pro Tem Julie Moore-Wolfe was selected by the city council to be mayor until the election of 2017. Julie has been a friend for many years and I know she will do an excellent job in the position. Although quite a few people encouraged me to seek the position of mayor again, and also that of an appointed city councilman to fill Julie’s seat -- I appreciate the confidence but I have no interest in running for or being appointed to public office again and certainly didn’t notify anyone on council that I was interested.
I WAS blessed to be elected both times I ran for mayor and wouldn’t trade those years of service and experience for anything. Although there were a few parts of the position that weren’t all that enjoyable, overall, I certainly loved being mayor for the people of this great city.
It was an honor for me to serve in that position. While I appreciate some people thinking of me in mayoral or councilman terms again, the rest of my career is to my community as a private private citizen and editor of this newspaper. It’s time for others to step up.
AS I looked at the photos of my last day in the mayor’s office, that I saw today, I thought back on my feelings that day. When I closed the door to the mayor’s office behind me for the final time, I left a piece of my heart there -- and knew I wouldn’t return. That was seven years ago, and in the years since, despite all of the conversations I had with the late mayor and others in city government, and all the columns I’ve written about City Hall, I never returned to the mayor’s office -- for any reason. I’ve been to City Hall, but never stepped inside that office. I’m not sure why, because I don’t think I’ve intentionally avoided it. Maybe it’s because, behind that door, is a ton of bittersweet memories that I don’t want to disturb.
Do You Remember Those Days ‘Back When’?
• Remember when North Main Street (pictured above in right of photo) curved over to North Water Street a few blocks before Pershing Road when Chap’s Amusement Park was in existence?
• Remember eating at Howard Johnson’s on East Pershing Road?
• Remember when most stores were closed on Sunday because it was “the day of rest”?
• Remember when television station WAND-TV was WTVP?
• Remember when A&W Root Beer stands were seemingly everywhere -- including small towns near Decatur?
• Remember when the annual Fun Fair was held in Fairview Park?
• Remember when Tolly’s Market was a familiar name in the Decatur area?
• Remember when service station attendants pumped your gas, checked your oil, wiped your windshield and checked the air in your tires -- all for the price of a gallon of gasoline which was about 18-20 cents?
• Remember when (Stephen) Decatur High School basketball teams routinely made the “Sweet Sixteen” tournament at Huff Gym in Champaign?
• Remember when Blondie Belles was located downtown near the northwest corner of Main and Water streets?
• Remember the record playing booths at Macon Music where you could listen to the latest hit record you were thinking about buying?
• Remember riding the escalator in the Goldblatt’s store in Fairview Plaza?
• Remember learning how to drive a straight shift car?
• Remember listening to Dick Biondi and, later, Larry Lujack on WLS when you were a teenager?
• Remember “Teen Town” for junior high and high school kids every Friday night in Decatur?
• Remember Shopper’s World on Pershing and how big it seemed?
• Remember the photo booth in the dime store where you and a friend could have four photos taken and processed in a few minutes for a quarter -- and you couldn’t wait to see that photo strip come out of the machine because both of you always made crazy faces in the camera?
• Remember reading and checking out books at the Carnegie Library on the southwest corner of Main and Eldorado?
• Remember Romano’s Pizza on South Maffit, and later South Jasper Street, and taking the pizza to Steak ‘n Shake to eat with a Coke delivered by a “car hop” to your car -- and watching all of the other young people driving through the parking lot?
• Remember going to the Lake Decatur beach to swim and keep cool?
• Remember driving around the Transfer House in Lincoln Square within minutes of getting your first driver’s license?
• Remember attending Church camp and Vacation Bible School?
• Remember eating on the Walgreen’s store mezzanine in the Citizens Office Building?
• Remember the strong scent of merchandise inside the Montgomery Ward store, and other retailers, when air conditioning was not common and big floor fans were used to keep customers cool? (They didn’t do much cooling.)
• Remember when Decatur had the morning Herald and evening Review newspapers?
• Remember when mail was sometimes delivered to your home or office two or three times a day? (No kidding.)
• Remember “party line” telephones where a half dozen of your neighbors had the same telephone line as your parents -- and many listened in to their neighbors’ conversations?
I’m all out of space and I’ve barely scratched the surface with simple personal memories and experiences of another time in Decatur’s history. We live in today’s world but memories of the past are always with us.
Dress Code Has Undergone Major ‘Alterations’
Over The Years
RECENTLY, on our Facebook Page, I posted some photos of Decatur High School girls carrying their books in the downtown of the 1940s. I was actually posting the photos to show some of the downtown businesses that existed back then that could be seen in the background. Then, I noticed in every photo of the high school girls, all of them were wearing dresses. There were no slacks, jeans or any other form of attire in the photos because they were not allowed. QUITE a few readers of the item indicated that, when they attended school, or when their mothers did, they were not permitted to wear anything but dresses -- even on the coldest days. Buffi Gentry wrote: “I remember my mother telling me she was chastised for wearing jeans under her dress to grade school when it was very cold in the 1960s.” Karen Sue Hunter Banks wrote: “I remember in grade school we were forbidden to wear anything but a dress.”
KAREN KORTE wrote that the dress code was not only imposed in Decatur but in other Central Illinois communities. Karen wrote: “I was in third or fourth grade before the school dress code allowed girls to wear slacks of any kind. My sister got sent home from Arthur High School when it was bitter cold for wearing a nice pantsuit that my mom made. So dresses were still the norm up to the early 70's.” Gaye Prichard Bunch wrote: “The school dress code changed in 1970-71, I think. I was in 8th grade and we were finally allowed to wear jeans and slacks.” Lois Neathery wrote: “I graduated from Eisenhower in 1959 and I remember we had to wear skirts or dresses and I remember wearing hose. You could wear Bobbie Sox penny loafers or White Bucks which was the rage...You also had to have skirts that came below the knee until mini-skirts came in.”
BARB HARDY wrote: “I got sent home when I was in high school because my dress was not 2 inches below my knee. The principal carried a yardstick around with him.” Ellen Berger wrote: “Things certainly have changed! Couldn't we strike a happy medium between then and now?” I like Ellen’s point but we’ve gone so far from one extreme to the other, not only in many schools but in the general public, that it will be hard to strike a balance.
I GRADUATED from high school in 1959 and, in thinking back of all the women teachers I had from first grade through graduation, not one of them ever wore jeans, slacks, pantsuits, or anything else but dresses. I’m sure it would have gone against the dress code back then. But, it wasn’t only teachers and girls, that’s the way the vast majority of women dressed whether they were working in an office, a retail business or shopping downtown.
THERE was a stigma connected to a woman wearing anything other than a dress in public back then -- and it even carried over into the home. Although my mom was in her late seventies when she died, I never saw her wear anything other than a dress -- whether it was at home or in public. That seems incredible to think about when considering all the work she did in being a homemaker. TIMES have changed, and many in the general population wear about anything they want and don’t care what anyone thinks about it. Still, when I think back of the big “dress code” of another era, apparently it only applied to the girls. Remember those basketball uniforms that high school players wore? The shorts were so short that old game film is embarrassing to watch today. Yet, I don’t think any of us thought anything about it. I wonder what future generations will think of what we wear today when they look at old photos of 2015?
‘Christine’ Really Sent The Wrong Signal This Time!
I WAS running far behind on this edition of the Tribune so I was at the newspaper office in the Millikin Building on a weekend morning -- about 6:00 -- to get some writing done. I get a lot accomplished when I can work without interruption early in the morning or at times over the weekend. I don’t answer the phone (except a private line call) and my office is at the back of our suite so I am very isolated from the world -- except for the view out of my windows.
THE OFFICES are closed on the weekend, so unless the telephone rings on the private line (family, staff members or close friends) I keep working and that’s what I was doing on the recent weekend morning. I heard what sounded like some guys moving furniture and a few shouts from the hallway, or from another office. I thought I heard some faint tapping somewhere but it didn’t sound like it was close to my office. A little later, I heard some pounding on our reception room door and I decided to check out what was happening. I OPENED the door and standing in front of me were four officers from the Decatur Police and Fire Department looking a little surprised to see me -- which was my reaction, too. I thought there had been an incident in the building and they were there to alert me about a “situation”. They seemed genuinely relieved that I was okay. They thought I might have had a heart attack, or something else bad had incapacitated me, and they were trying their best to find a way into the newspaper office to help me. They had even removed some ceiling tile thinking that possibly they could get into the office or get my attention but that didn’t work.
WHAT sparked the concern was another professional who works in the building (and who also works a lot of hours on weekends) knows what make of car I drive. (You remember Christine --the possessed car I’ve written about?) He noticed that, when he arrived at the office building, my car’s engine was running and the lights were on.
HE HAD left a note on my office door letting me know that my car was running and asked if I would let him know everything was okay. According to the time on the note, he had left it an hour earlier and I had not used the door during that hour so I didn’t see it, or respond -- and he became concerned. As time passed and I didn’t answer the public line phone (and very few people have my cellphone number) there started to be more concern.
OFFICE STAFF members have keys to the door, but finding them immediately was a problem. It became one of those situations where I was “unreachable” even though I was only about 20 feet from the hallway. The manager of the building was called and he was on his way to unlock the outer office door. That was about the time I opened the door to find out what all the commotion was about.
I APOLOGIZED for causing them so much trouble. Two police units and a fire truck had been dispatched to the building. I didn’t get that much attention when I was mayor. (Just kidding.) I really appreciated the concern of my office neighbor and Decatur’s finest for showing so much consideration and was especially pleased that I didn’t have a heart attack, or was the victim of any other physical problem, or encounter. I did mention to the officers as we were walking out that, had one of them poked his head through the ceiling of my office to see if I was okay, I probably WOULD have had a heart attack!
IT IS reassuring to know that people care and the city’s safety services personnel are always ready to bring help when there is a possible need. There wasn’t a need this time, but they didn’t know that until they checked everything out and made sure. Getting inside my office on a weekend, when I’m working to catch up on the newspaper, is like getting inside Fort Knox, but we’ve taken a few steps to make it easier for safety services if there is ever a next time, and it’s the real thing, which I hope never happens.
AS FAR as “Christine”, the car with the attitude problem, if I had to testify in a court of law that the car was shut off after I parked it, I would have no problem saying it was -- and, even more, based on its history -- I always walk around it and double check after I get out just to make sure it is shut off. That’s downright creepy. For now, can anyone direct me to the group of “Possessed Car Owners Anonymous” that meets locally?
Some Reasons Why Newspaper Editors Get Gray Hair
AFTER being editor of this newspaper for several decades, my hair has turned from brown to gray. I think the reason is more about the aging process that anything else, although one city councilman told me, when I served as mayor, that he wanted to add a few gray hairs to my head. (I think he was joking...or was he?)
FOLLOWING are a few examples of what could have contributed to the gray hair -- and they’re probably similar to what most newspaper editors experience on a regular basis.
• YEARS AGO a candidate for public office came to the office and was really “hot” under the collar. This was the conversation as best I can remember it. HOT: “The way you quoted me was not accurate. You made me look like a fool.” ME: “I taped the interview as I told you I was doing. I took your quotes from that recorder.” HOT: “Okay, the quotes were accurate but they made me look stupid.” ME: “Did you want me to misquote you to make you look smart?” HOT: “I’ll never let you interview me again.” ME: “Can I quote you on that?”
• THERE IS not any part of this newspaper that creates more threats to me than the Public Records section. That’s because a few people, when they are charged with an offense, get mad at me when their name appears in the Tribune. What is printed is what we receive from the Macon County Circuit Clerk. The entire list is printed regardless of whose name is on it. The following is a conversation I had with an irate guy that wasn’t all that unusual -- as I remember it. CHARGED: “I always supported you because I thought you were fair, but if you run my arrest in your newspaper, I will never subscribe to the Tribune or advertise with you again.” ME: “You always told me you supported me because everyone was treated the same in this newspaper. Now, are you saying I should treat you differently and leave out your name?” The man’s name was printed, he hasn’t subscribed or advertised in the newspaper since that time. Most people who call me, wanting their name and charge left out of the Public Records, are polite after I explain why ALL names from the Macon County Circuit Clerk’s office have to be printed -- but a few bring on the threats.
•WHAT HAS to be the weirdest complaint I’ve ever received, about someone’s name being in the Public Records, came from a man who was upset because we had the wrong charge listed. What made it weird was, what he was actually charged with was far more serious than the charge we had listed! He insisted a correction be printed with the more serious charge by his name -- which was done because it was a correction. I guess he was proud of the charge against him and wanted to make sure everyone knew he was big and bad.
OF COURSE, I’ve only scratched the surface of the challenges in printing a newspaper. There’s been countless “normal” experiences over the years that can, when repeated a thousand times, add a few gray hairs, like someone sending a photo with four people in it and they have listed the names of either three or five people as being in the photo, or someone calling on Thursday wanting to know if they can still get a news item in the previous day’s edition. A countless number of people have sent news items asking that it be included in the next four or five editions of the Decatur Tribune. (After the first time, we call that an ad, not a news story. If we ran all of the same news items from the week before, we could just print the same paper we printed last week.)
• I GET a lot of requests for FREE ads if I have “some extra space in next week’s Tribune”. (I explain that, if I printed ads for free it wouldn’t be fair to those who buy ads and, if I made all ads free as some have suggested, I wouldn’t have a newspaper to run any ads.) Sometimes, people forget that a newspaper is a business that has to show a profit to stay in operation.
I DON’T know if I have more gray hair as a result of being an editor for so many years, but, at least I haven’t pulled out all of my hair in frustration -- and that’s a sign that I actually enjoy my work even with all of the major and minor daily challenges. I still look forward to every day. It also helps to be BOTH editor and publisher of the Tribune because I know the publisher will always have the editor’s back. The editor of this newspaper thinks exactly like the publisher -- and looks a lot like him -- so I don’t have to worry that I will fire myself!
Editor & Publisher
Columns Are Printed With The Most Recent Displayed First
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The photo across the top of the page shows the northeast corner of downtown's Lincoln Square and the statue of Abraham Lincoln marks where he gave his first political speech.