For those of us who are old enough to think back to that terrible day in Dallas, Texas, 50 years ago this Friday, we can remember every detail of what we were doing when he heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Obviously, I was a young man back then, and there’s been over 18,000 days in my life since that awful, awful day on November 22, 1963 -- but this day stands out in my memory. I was home with the flu that day. I was lying on the couch feeling very sick and miserable. The black and white television was on, but I wasn’t paying much attention to it. Then, I heard veteran newsman Walter Cronkite’s voice breaking into the CBS programming saying that shots had been fired at the Presidential motorcade in Dallas. I had been dozing on and off and, at first, I thought I was still asleep and was waking up from a nightmare and it wasn’t true -- but it was true. CRONKITE: “Here is a bulletin from CBS News: in Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.” Cronkite's first news flash about the shooting was at 1:40 P.M. EST, interrupting “As the World Turns”. It is an audio-only report over the "CBS News Bulletin" slide on the screen. CRONKITE: “More details just arrived. These details about the same as previously: President Kennedy shot today just as his motorcade left downtown Dallas; Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed Mr. Kennedy, she called 'Oh, no!'; the motorcade sped on. United Press says that the wounds for President Kennedy perhaps could be fatal.” CRONKITE: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago. (pause as Cronkite fights back tears, then regains his composure). Vice President Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded; presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States...” I was absolutely stunned -- along with everybody else! The assassination of a U. S. President was something I only knew from our history books and most infamous was the killing of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, nearly a century earlier. Two other U. S. Presidents were assassinated in the years between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations: James Garfield in 1881 and President William McKinley in 1901. Assassination of a U. S. President was something that I never thought about happening in the society of 1963. The events immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy including the killing of the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby, the swearing in of Lyndon Johnson as the next president, Mrs. Kennedy wearing the dress that had blood splatters on it from her husband, the crowds that passed by the body lying in state in the nation’s capitol, the funeral of the fallen president and so much more -- left nearly everybody gazing at their television screens because it seemed so unreal. All of those images are as vivid today as they were 50 years ago and, as I’ve grown older over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how young President Kennedy was when he was assassinated at 46 years of age. There’s been a lot happen in my life, and the nation’s life, during the 50 years since we heard Walter Cronkite announce the terrible news that President Kennedy was dead. That’s one report that is indelibly marked in my heart -- and the nation’s soul.
Should The Name Of Jesus Be Used In Public
Prayers Before Local Government Meetings?
During the years I served as mayor, I was often asked to offer a prayer at some public events. Part of the reason was the office I held, but also that, before I was elected mayor I would often speak at various church gatherings and public meetings. There were more than a few times when, as editor, I would cover an event for the newspaper, and when the minister who was scheduled to give the invocation was running late, I was asked to fill the spot. So, I would go to the podium, offer a prayer, and then resume my news coverage of the event. I distinctly remember a time, when a new member of the news crew for WAND-TV was covering her first news conference and was shocked that I was called out of the group of reporters to offer the opening prayer because the minister didn’t show up. She told me that I was there as a reporter to cover the conference and “you’re going up there and offering the prayer!” I told her (tongue-in-cheek) I was probably asked to fill in for the minister because I was the only reporter wearing a suit and tie. I don’t think she found the answer amusing. Actually, I really didn’t think much about “filling in”, but I’m sure the news reporter repeated what she saw me do when she gathered with colleagues at stations in other cities and talked about some of the “odd things” that she had experienced along the way.
She felt what I had done was wrong. So, going back to the start of this column, when I became mayor, I was often asked to pray at an event or meeting. The prayer I offered always ended “in Jesus’ name, Amen”. That’s the way I’ve always prayed since I was old enough to pray. That’s the way I was taught in Church and I’ve always believed praying through Jesus is a critical part of my prayer to God. To pray any differently would have not been sincere on my part. Although I have no way of proving it, there were a couple non-religious public events, where I was never asked to offer a prayer again -- after praying “in Jesus’ name”. I was asked to participate in the programs in other ways, but never to pray. I guess, using the name of Jesus in public prayer must have offended someone. I’m writing on this subject today because of the item I wrote in the column on the front page of this website and the print edition. Prayer at the beginning of meetings of government bodies, like the city council, is getting another look by the U. S. Supreme Court. What seems to be at the core of the lawsuit that was filed is Christian ministers praying before a township or council meeting -- and even worse -- using “in Jesus’ name” at the end of their prayers. Presently, a lot of government bodies have eliminated any invocation because of a fear of lawsuits. I know the argument that there needs to be a separation between church and state. I’ve heard the “legal” argument against invocation before government meetings countless times. I think this nation has gone too far in restricting free speech and prayer. People apparently have the right to profane the names of Jesus and God in derogatory comments in referring to the government in hotly-debated arguments -- but let someone mention the name of Jesus in a prayer in a non-religious setting and lawsuits are threatened, and sometimes filed. I am a follower of Jesus. It doesn’t mean that I am perfect because I’m not. It does mean that I am a member of the Christian faith. I don’t intend to offend anybody with my faith or my prayers, but I will continue to pray in Jesus’ name, because I believe it is the way I should pray. If you don’t want to hear the name of “Jesus” in a public prayer, then don’t ask me to pray. I won’t turn my back on the One who has never turned His back on me because of any threat.
Some ‘Whoppers’ From Insurance Agent, President
Thirty years ago, I was trying to decide whether I should change insurance companies. I was satisfied with the insurance I had, but it was outdated in paying hospital stay costs, etc., Since I had a “pre-existing condition” (history of kidney issues) I wanted assurance from any new insurance policy I purchased, my pre-existing condition would be covered, as it was with the company I had at the time. I asked the highly-regarded insurance agent if the new policy could ever be cancelled. Since I had the kidney problem, I wanted to make sure it would be covered because that would be where I most likely would need some medical expense help. “I can guarantee you that you will never be cancelled as long as you pay the premiums,” he told me confidently. When I hesitated, because it sounded “too good to be true”, he said the “no-cancellation” aspect of the policy is what made it so popular. He looked me straight in the eye and said the company stood behind the policy and “so do I -- no ifs, ands or buts.” With that kind of assurance I signed up for the new policy. Two years later, my policy was cancelled -- even though I hadn’t even filed a claim! I called the insurance agent who had sold me the policy, and firmly reminded him that the only reason I bought the policy was that he told me I couldn’t be cancelled for any reason. I told him that he had lied to me and I was going to have a difficult time finding insurance that would cover the kidney problem. He said that he didn’t lie to me because I couldn’t be cancelled -- unless, of course, everybody who had the policy was cancelled, which he told me had happened. He also indicated that, what he told me was the truth, because, as a policy holder I couldn’t be cancelled -- but, as part of many thousands of policyholders, the policy could be cancelled -- and that was legal. So, in his eyes, technically, he wasn’t lying. Actually, in my eyes, the salesman was a liar. Instead of saying that I couldn’t be cancelled “for any reason” period, he should have said “...unless the policy is cancelled for every policyholder.” He didn’t say that because he knew I wouldn’t have traded a policy I was overall satisfied with, for the one he had offered had he not given me the assurance there was no way I could ever be cancelled as long as I paid the premiums. The result of the agent’s lie was that the policy I was finally able to get from another company, excluded any treatment or hospitalization costs from the kidney problem I had. I was on my own in what was likely to be my biggest medical expense on a health issue. I couldn’t help but think of my experience with that insurance agent many years ago as I watched the accusations that President Obama had lied to the American people when he said repeatedly that, under Affordable Care, better known as Obamacare, if you like your current insurance plan “you can keep it”, and in some instances he added “period”, as in no ifs, ands, or buts. That’s already been proven to be untrue. Many have come to his defense contending that he didn’t lie and “most people” can keep their coverage. However, that’s not what the president said repeatedly. What he did say built support for Obamacare and a lot of that support he had would not have been there if millions of people had known they could, and probably would, lose their present healthcare plan. I’ve received emails and letters from readers who believe President Obama didn’t lie in what he said and it’s only Republicans who are making “a big deal” out of his words. Those who believe he did lie try to justify his words through saying he lied for “the right reason”. Misleading the American people is not a Democrat or Republican issue -- it’s about honesty in representing our interests. Somewhere along the line we seem to have lost our moral compass -- and that applies to both political parties. I have a problem with anyone who lies to me, for whatever “good” reason -- whether he is an insurance agent or the President of the United States. I believe we have come to the time in America where truth has been trampled underfoot by many politicians rushing to tell us the next lie.
Posted 11/8/13 Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Sentimental Over The ‘Small Things’
My brother, Sam, passed away in January, 2011. For 30 years we met at Monical’s Pizza every Friday night to talk, laugh and share a pizza. On my desk is a birthday card that he gave me in 2010 on one of those Friday nights -- the last birthday he would be with me to celebrate. The card reads: “A brother shares laughs, stories and memories, too. On your birthday, we celebrate you. You are a wonderful brother and friend. Today, you are wished the happiest of days. Your brother, Sam.” I cherish that card because it came from my brother and that’s why I keep it on my desk It has been over 20 years since my mom, Betty, passed away. In the Tribune offices, a table that I made for her in shop class at Roosevelt Junior High School, has a prominent place, just as it did in my parents’ home all the years until both had passed away and it became mine. I remember how surprised she was when I brought the table home from school with what seemed like a hundred coats of varnish on it. When I see it, I have a special memory of what it meant to her and why it means so much to me. When my father, Sam, passed away in 2002, among his possessions that became mine was a bronze lighthouse that he had made when he was in the Navy. It was in their home before my brother and I were even born and remained there all of those years until dad died. During the years that I was mayor, the lighthouse was on the credenza behind my desk in the mayor’s office. I wanted a part of who he was in my office. It’s now on the corner of my desk in my den at home where it will remain as long as I live. I’m never at Decatur Memorial Hospital, that a thought about our daughter, Kimberly Kay, doesn’t go through my mind. It’s been over 40 years since she died there of an illness. Even today, I can still have the painful memory of the absolute dispair of leaving the hospital in the blackness of night, trying to cope with the unbelievable and wondering how I was going to explain to our young sons their sister was not coming home because she had gone to be with Jesus. There are other family members, and extended family members, who have passed away over the years and there are “small things” and places that stir memories of them. I also get sentimental about our children and grandchildren. There are still messages on the refrigerator of writings expressing their love. Some messages that I’ve received over the years, are still on the side of newspaper layout pages in my computer and they are reminders of special tenderness and innocence from years ago. It’s amazing how a short, simple “I love you grandpa” can touch the heart -- even years later. The "small things” about the people we love, here and beyond, are like breadcrumbs that are dropped along the path of life. We use them to find our way back to the memories that we cherish of those we love. Such “small things” wouldn’t bring much at an auction, but, to me they are priceless. Every morning, when I start the day by praying for my family, friends and community, I also ask God to let those I love, who have passed on, know that I think of them everyday, and that I miss and love them very much -- and that I will never forget them. How could I forget them -- with so many “small reminders” they’ve left behind?
'You're Not Listening To What I'm Saying'
The man on the other end of the telephone call was angry with me. There was something that was going to appear in the public records section of the newspaper that he did not want printed. He had been arrested, and since he was fairly-well known in the community, he did not want his name printed with all the other names that are on the page. He told me that it would really hurt his reputation if the public found out. The caller was a friend and he first appealed to that relationship and how I would be doing him “a favor” by leaving out his name. I tried to be a sympathetic ear, but he would not be satisfied unless I guaranteed him that his name would not be printed. I explained to him that I don’t pick and choose the names that are printed. Those reports are from the Macon County Circuit Clerk’s office and it has always been the policy to print every name on the report because it is a matter of public record. When I explained to him the process, he firmly stated: “You’re not listening to what I’m saying. I don’t want my name to appear in your newspaper.” I heard exactly what he had said, because he said it repeatedly, and each time I explained the policy of this newspaper. All names are printed that we receive from the county, regardless of the person’s standing in the community. What kind of editor would I be to pick and choose the people who are on the record, and those who are “off the record”, because they have “social status” or know the editor? Everyone gets treated the same around here, and it has resulted in a number of threats, some losses of friendship, as well as losses in advertising. I’m sorry when people break the rules and it results in contact with our legal system. I’m also sorry when they call and ask me to do something I never do with the newspaper -- because it tells me they think I’m a pretty shallow person that can easily be talked into doing something that I don’t want to do. Even though this incident happened many months ago, and the man has broken off any kind of a relationship with me and the newspaper, when I see the same statement made about public bodies, like the city council, I think of the man’s statement. Often, when a public body makes a decision that is contrary to what a citizen, or some citizens, wanted them to make, the statement is made “You didn’t listen to what we said.” As a former public official in Decatur I don’t remember falling asleep or suddenly losing my hearing when someone, or group of people, approached the city council with an opinion on how something should be done. Sometimes, comments and opinions expressed caused us to take a second look at an issue. But, when we made a decision that was contrary to what a person, or persons, said we should do, we were sometimes angrily accused of “not listening” to what they had said. The correct statement that should be made is “You didn’t agree with what I said.” I believe we have a responsibility to respect the opinions of others and listen to other points of view -- but we are not compelled to agree with them because of policy, such action would be illegal, or a contrary belief on the correct course of action. If that isn’t clear, then “You’re not listening to what I’m saying.”
Telling Lies About Local Officeholders
Recently, I’ve had some conversations with a few local officeholders about lies and accusations that have been made about them that they find frustrating and upsetting. As a former mayor, I can easily recite some of the negative personal comments made about me during those years -- and I’m sure they are still being used today on the present mayor and/or council members. “You’re on the take from ADM,” is one that hangs around, probably because ADM is a big part of the community. I was never once offered any kind of a bribe or even a threat from ADM. I found ADM to be a solid partner in dredging Lake Decatur (they paid half the cost) and involved in the community as no other corporation. I remember all of the statements about what was going on at City Hall and how “a lot of money is being passed around under the table.” I never found that table. Every time I looked under a table, about all I found were a few pieces of chewed gum that had been stuck there. “You’re making back room deals,” was another classic accusatory statement. Maybe the “under the table” table was in that mysterious back room because I never found that room either. “You’re filling your pockets with taxpayers’ money,” was another accusation. After they found out I had only billed the City for less than $20 (which I didn’t realize had been billed) in expenses in all of the years I served, they then claimed I wasn’t doing my job because I was not doing any networking with other cities. (I paid all of my own expenses for trips to Springfield, etc.) When I purchased a classic Corvette about the same time I was elected to my first term, someone claimed that I was “living high” with “all that money” I was getting as mayor. Actually, at a mayoral salary of $8,000 per year, it doesn’t leave much “living high” money to spend. Besides, as I mentioned a few years ago, this newspaper had to give up running any legals for the City of Decatur when I became mayor -- which totalled more than $8,000 per year. Do the math. Like the present mayor and city council members, it’s about public service -- not the money. One of my favorite “stories” that was circulated indicated I was often drunk in a bar where I liked to “hang out”. I guess the liars didn’t know the strongest drink of my choice is V8 juice, unless you count Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper. Oh, the bar where I would “hang out” -- I’ve never been in the place in my life. I started looking at some of the personal attacks with a sense of humor -- which is probably the way to cushion the frustration. When someone would ask how I got to be so dumb, I would say something like I got to be so dumb by “practice! practice! practice!” I also gained the perspective that, if someone strongly opposed something I was doing and attacked me personally, they must not have a sensible point of view to explain. Usually, that’s when people talk real loud or demean someone’s character. I’ve known the mayor and about all of the city council members for many years, and although there are times on this page that I disagree with a decision or action, and express my disagreement, I never question their honesty or sincerity in wanting to make our community a better place. I loved serving as mayor of Decatur because I knew those spinning lies and rumors did not represent the goodness of the people in this community -- and that’s still true today.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Memories From Caps, Hats And Hardhats
I mentioned a few weeks ago in this column that I had started going through a lot of memorabilia that I’ve collected and stored over the years and was surprised at some of the things I’ve found. Everything I’ve looked at so far has some kind of special memory for me -- or I probably wouldn’t have saved it. I have caps that family members, readers and citizens have given to me over the years. Son Craig gave me a Chicago Bears cap a few years ago which was autographed by Lovie Smith, who was coach of the Chicago Bears at the time. Councilman Pat McDaniel gave me a “front and back” cap right after I was elected to my first term as mayor over a decade ago. The front of the cap read “mayor” with the back reading “publisher”. That meant that all I had to do to make the cap “job appropriate” was twist it 180 degrees. By the way, a “double-faced” cap is not the same as being “two-faced”. I also have caps given to me by several neighborhoods that I visited as mayor with the organizations’ names on the front. I have caps from the Millikin Big Blue sports teams and high school teams who gave them to me. One special cap is from a reader who gave it to me after Cat announced that some 1,400 jobs had been created at the Decatur plant within a very short period. I received that “1400” cap nearly a decade ago and now, it’s hard to imagine a local industry creating that many new jobs in a very short time frame. I also have a straw hat that I wore when Bob Fallstrom and I were in a Macon County Founder’s Day parade. (The rumor is not true that both of us were here when the county was established in the 1800s.) I also picked up some nifty construction hardhats over the years that I served as mayor We used hardhats every time we broke ground for a new project. One time I was even presented with the shovel I used to break the ground. The shovel and hardhat were in my office until we moved to our present office three years ago and then went into storage. Besides the caps, hats and hardhats, I also picked up assorted ceremonial items including a hockey puck for getting out on the ice and starting a major hockey game at the civic center. (Receiving a hockey puck is better than being called one.) Five years have passed since I left the mayor’s office, but I received (thanks to the invitation of the mayor and city manager) a hardhat to wear when we broke ground for the new police headquarters last Thursday. I now have that hardhat (I didn’t take the shovel) in my office where it will stay for a long time. The hardhat has special memories for me because one of the major projects I worked on in my mayoral days, is now a reality thanks to the present administration and the Romano family. What all of the caps, hats and hardhats have in common is that, except for wearing them on the special occasions when I received them, I never wore any of them again. I never wear caps, hats or hardhats in my profession, although a hardhat might have come in handy in some situations during my career. Today, they all have special meaning for me, not because of what they are, but because of what they represent in positive memories. The caps, hats and hardhats are more about touching my heart than covering my head.
Some Things I've Been Thinking About
Following are some things that I’ve been thinking about that were included in my editorial in the print edition of the Decatur Tribune. As you read them, either agree, disagree or show a little mercy to the editor.
• Will Russian President Vladimir Putin be in line for the Nobel Peace Prize if the U. S. doesn’t bomb Syria? After all, Putin, the former dreaded KGB officer was the one who essentially said “we can work this out in a peaceful way”. The world has been turned upside down!
• Remember the good ole days when our nation’s political parties spent more time fighting against our enemies and for our citizens, instead of trying to make each other look bad?
• In a nation with more communication technology than at any time in the history of mankind, a lot of people don’t have the time to talk to each other unless it is done “wirelessly”.
• I opened a bottle of Ibuprofen this morning and found the recession has even affected the pain reliever. The company has eliminated the big wad of cotton that is usually stuffed between the cap and the pills.
• I don’t believe any politician who runs for office on the platform of “changing things” in Washington or Springfield. Only the faces change in government while the root cause of our problems -- “a lust for power” -- remains.
• Remember when there was a time that an athlete like Tim Tebow was someone that most people admired, not vilified, for demonstrating his belief in Jesus Christ? • If Obamacare is so great, why do politicians and their staffs want to be exempt from it? Lawmakers should have to live under the same legislation they pass for everybody else to live under.
• There’s so many commercials on television shows these days, that I have to keep notes so I will know what the storyline of the program is about when the commercials are over and they finally get back to it.
• I can’t help but notice that, in so many of the crimes that are being committed in our community, the person arrested for committing them has a police record -- and it’s not for good behavior or penmanship.
• How do I know that my second childhood has kicked in? Well, last night, I had real difficulty opening a child-proof bottle.
• I like everybody, but, I have to admit, some people are easier to like than others.
• Despite all of the criticism of the United States Postal Service, on a local level, the workers and carriers I’ve had contact with over the years have been, and continue to be, exceptional people.
• I wonder if there was an incompetency test given the leadership of both political parties in the nation’s capitol, if they would be competent enough to pass?
• Those who criticize “Jesus People” for doing “street witnessing” because they feel the method is wrong, should remember the old saying: “I like the way they do it wrong, better than the way you don’t do it at all.”
• Those who can’t understand why ADM would want to locate its global headquarters in a major city probably have never tried to fly to a major city starting from Decatur (via car) to catch the first leg of the flight.
• The longer I live the more I appreciate that what is most valuable in life cannot be bought with money -- but it’s obvious that a lot of people don’t share that opinion.
* * * *
Police Building Groundbreaking Is Great Event
The City of Decatur, in conjunction with other project partners, will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for what will be the new Decatur Police Department at noon on Thursday, Sept. 26 at the department’s planned new home at 707 Southside Drive. It’s really a significant event and it’s taken more than 10 years to get to the point where we can say the problem of police department overcrowding has finally be solved. Earlier this month, the Decatur City Council voted in favor of a redevelopment agreement and lease with BW of Decatur LLC for department operations at the site. Work to renovate the building has begun to ensure that the facility will meet all police specifications and be open for occupancy by early next year. The project will allow for the reuse of 46,000 square feet in a now vacant building formerly occupied by the Zexel-Valeo auto parts company. “Finding space for the department has been a goal of the City Council for some time now,” said Mayor Mike McElroy. “To be able to move forward with this project for the fine men and women of our police department and at a cost that is good for the taxpayer represents the perfect solution to what has been a long-standing problem.” No one on council knows better than McElroy about the decade of struggle to get to this point. He was first elected a city councilman in 2003, the same year that I was elected mayor, and one of the major issues confronting that council was alleviating the crowded conditions of the police department at the Law Enforcement Center without a burden on taxpayers. When we took the tour of the facility ten years ago, I was appalled at what the officers and staff were dealing with in terms of overcrowding. To say the department was filled to the roof was no exaggeration. We had to go out on the roof and into the building’s attic to see where evidence was being stored. That’s how bad it was a decade ago. Then - City Manager Steve Garman started a study of all available buildings which could be utilized to house the Decatur Police Department. Where to put the department became very controversial and some of the roughest meetings that I chaired during that time revolved about what to do in moving ahead. There’s no point in rehashing all of that now, because it happened years ago. When I left the mayor’s position in 2008, the same year that Garman retired from the city manager’s position, one of my major goals of securing additional space for the police department had not been resolved. It would be another five years before it was resolved, thanks to the Romanos, City Manager Ryan McCrady, Police Chief Todd Walker, the mayor and council and I couldn’t be more pleased and proud about the outcome. Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
You Don't Pull The Mask From That Old Long Ranger
And You Don't Mess Around With Jim (Jason)
Forty years ago Singer/ Songwriter Jim Croce was producing a lot of hit songs. Croce, until his untimely death in a plane crash in 1973, had hits like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown:, “Time In A Bottle”, “Operator”, and others. One of my favorites was “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” and I’ve had that song in my mind ever since an incident happened in a downtown business a couple of weeks ago. Croce's song mentioned some things a person shouldn’t do -- like “pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger” and “don’t mess around with Jim.” The downtown business incident happened at the Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness Gym located in the 100 block of North Main Street, The business is owned by life-long mixed martial artist and multiple time UFC competitor Jason Reinhardt. Reinhardt was finishing up a class when a woman came in, and for an unclear reason, started cursing at him. She was asked to leave, and then her “huge” grandson came into the gym, and claimed he had disrespected his grandmother and started throwing some punches at Reinhardt. That would not be the smartest move the man made that day, or year. I've known Reinhardt for several years and I wasn’t surprised that, when being interviewed by the news media following the incident, he pointed to a hole in the wall “where the gentleman’s head” hit. A front window was also broken out during the “incident”. A police officer happened to be going by and intervened and arrested the attacker, who faces aggravated battery and property damage charges. I’ve always liked Jason and talk with him every once-in-a-while when I see him downtown. He has a quiet, yet enthusiastic and polite demeanor about him and is a great mixed martial arts teacher. He will also defend himself and his students if trouble ever comes calling. As far as the huge “gentleman” who attacked him, he was probably fortunate the police officer was nearby, or his trip might have been to the hospital before he was taken into custody. Hopefully, people know that Jason’s gym is now located in the building. The previous occupant was the Republican campaign headquarters where the fight could have led to all sorts of rumors in the world of politics. THIS IS only a suggestion but for anyone who is going to “throw some punches” in somebody’s direction (which isn’t a good idea to begin with), make sure the person you are going to punch is not a professional mixed martial artist who has competed in national championships, because that attack is going to turn out bad for you. Or, as Jim Croce wrote and sang decades ago: “You don't tug on Superman's cape “You don't spit into the wind “You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger “And you don't mess around with Jim.” The name “Jason” can be inserted in place of “Jim”.
Posted Online Sept. 19, 2013
* * * *
‘Treasure Trove’ Of History In Tribune ‘Attic’
When we moved the Decatur Tribune offices to the Millikin Court Building three years ago we had to store a lot of the old files and materials because we have less space here. Not long ago, I started sorting through my accumulation of decades of photos, materials and assorted media in countless boxes. It’s a slow process for me because I’m very sensitive about the “treasure trove” of Decatur history that I’ve collected over the years and unwilling to discard anything. Besides, you’ve probably said it yourself: “I may need that someday”. Going through the boxes is like taking a look back at the high and low points of the community and my career as a journalist. The boxes contain many of the scripts and programs I did when I hosted the “Thoughts For Today” program on WDZ for many years. I’m not even sure that I can find an old “reel-to-reel” recorder to play them, but I still have a lot of them -- all of these years later. There’s also many boxes with tapes of the daily “Newsline” programs that I wrote and hosted over WFHL-TV for ten years -- between 1984 and 1994. What is particularly interesting to me about those tapes (in addition to me being 20 to 30 years younger with dark hair) is the history that’s on them and the raw footage of Decatur thirty years ago. ALTHOUGH I haven’t looked in many of the boxes, I know there’s a lot of interviews with people like Pat Quinn (long before he became governor) Mayor Gary Anderson, Senator Penny Severns, Sen. Charles Percy, Newt Gingrich in front of the old Central Park fountain, the visit to Decatur by President Ronald Reagan and other major political figures. Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara was always my Friday night guest and we had a lot of fun -- especially when Tom demonstrated a slam dunk and nearly tore down the studio set! I know there’s a lot of footage of events like the first Decatur Celebration, groundbreaking for Richland Community College, and about every other event in Decatur during that period. I’ve only checked one of the 30-year-old tapes, but the quality is as clear as it was when it was taped. My idea is to use some of them as “video scrapbooks” and post on our website, in the same way that I print still photos in the “Scrapbook” articles in this newspaper each week. Also in storage is all of the equipment I used to produce the television show. The large cameras, editing equipment, monitors and miles of cords are all in mint condition. They were all new and cutting edge technology when I bought them but, even though in great condition, they are now obsolete, just like the video tapes. There's also boxes of correspondence, historical memorabilia and writing awards and plaques that will not mean much to anyone but me -- plus plenty of boxes of photos that I shot in the community over the years. I also found a lot of materials from my 2003 campaign for mayor of Decatur, including yard signs and countless bumper stickers with “Osborne For Mayor” on them. There’s also boxes of materials from the years I served as mayor including my platform/vision for the city -- which I found interesting to read again. Like everything else I’ve been finding -- audio and video tapes, lots of photos, radio scripts, old copies of the Tribune and other newspapers I published, plus all of the mayoral materials -- I can’t bear to throw them away because they give me a perspective on my life and this community. Besides, you never know about a “treasure trove” of old materials and memories. “I may need that someday!”
* * *
It Was Before Everyone Became
Offended By Everything
Recently, a “Scrapbook” story that I wrote about cruisin’ when Steak ‘n Shake was located on East Eldorado, that was in the print edition of this newspaper, drew a lot of attention. Before all of the social media we have today, the drive-in restaurants with car-hops, like the Steak ‘n Shakes on Eldorado and also on North Main, Elam’s on West Eldorado, and a few others, were the “social centers” for high school kids and young adults. The routine was to back your car into the parking space, wait for a car hop to take your order, listen to disc jocky Dick Biondi on WLS play the latest hits (and sing “On Top Of A Pizza) on the car’s AM radio and view the world as we knew it. Food was brought to the car on a tray that hooked on the window. I had a lot of steakburgers and french fries back then. None of us had air-conditioning in our cars so the windows were always down in the warm weather and we talked between cars. It wasn’t unusual for passengers in the cars (rarely was anyone there alone) to go from car to car and visit other kids he or she knew --or was meeting for the first time No one thought anything about it. It was an opportunity to watch the latest “hot rod” creations of fellow students who took great pride in “cruising” through the lot. It was a time of great innocence, special friendships and a lot of fun. One of our readers, Chris Barnett, who was reminded of those times by my article, wrote on page 6 of this week's print edition about the time that, out of boredom, he and some of his friends found an old wheelchair in a basement and proceeded to cruise down Eldorado and into the Steak ‘n Shake parking lot. I can understand, as he wrote, it never occurred to any of them they were making fun of people who were confined to a wheelchair, which was and is no laughing matter. My experiences at Steak ‘n Shake came years before the ones that Chris wrote about. I didn’t witness the wheelchair cruisin’ incident, but I did witness a lot of goofy things that teenagers did in my era at the East Eldorado location. They were funny at the time, but wouldn’t be so funny today. I remember a carload of kids that cruised through the parking lot with the trunklid of the car partially open and another kid’s arm hanging out of it with ketchup on it -- as if there was a murder victim in the trunk! It was the kind of “entertainment” that was common -- and no one thought that they were “making fun” of real murder victims. Try that on Eldorado today and it could result in some jail time. Like so many who were in high school back then, all of the memories I have of those years are fond ones that have only made me realize how different the world is today. There are countless stories, that those of us who were there in the original “Cruisin’ Eldo” years can tell, with great relish. Most of the teenagers I knew back then have gone on to build successful lives in about every profession you can name. Today, the Steak ‘n Shakes on Eldorado, North Main and Elam’s are history and “drive-in” service was replaced by “drive-through” restaurants a long time ago. The AM-only radios in cars have been replaced by “communication centers” where a person can talk to other people around the world and passengers can even watch television. Plus, there’s no way of getting lost with a guidance system built into the car. Cars have air-conditioning so there’s not much communication between cars -- unless someone gets cut off in traffic! If someone climbs into your car today, he’s probably there to rob you. One of the reasons that cruisin’ shows are so popular today is that, they are not only reminders of the cars we drove and loved in another era of our lives -- but they also remind us of a great time to be a teenager. Cars were very personal to us and were usually works of automotive art created from an old used car by the young, poor creative owner. Kids didn’t need a thousand dollars worth of electronics to have fun. They could create something to do out of an old broken-down wheelchair. Back then, boredom spawned creativity, not violence.
‘Christ Is The Answer’ Revival Tent To
Be Raised At Pershing Road Location
A huge “Christ Is The Answer” Revival/Reunion tent will be raised on the vacant lot next to Taco Bell on Pershing Road in a couple of weeks. As I indicated in an article earlier this year, Evangelist Bill Lowery is returning to Decatur for a reunion/revival to commemorate the 40th anniversary of when the “Jesus People” witnessed in the community. I expected the reunion/ revival to happen earlier in the summer but the wheels are now in motion to hold the crusade Sept. 16-28. Long-time Decaturites will remember that a little over 40 years ago, Low-ery and the “Jesus People” were in Decatur with the tent ministry and street witnessing and drew a lot of attention mixed with controversy. Several of them were arrested for trespassing as they witnessed in front of Kmart, the massage parlor on North Main Street, the Adult Book Store downtown and a few other places. I talked with Lowery a few days ago and he told me that he is expecting things to go smoother this time. Last month, he met with pastors of local churches at Perkins Restaurant to involve the Christian community in the “Jesus Plan” and some 30 pastors and their congregations are anxious to be a part of this crusade. More have pledged support for the Decatur effort since then. When I talked to Lowery earlier this year, when he first told me he was bringing the revival back to Decatur, he indicated that one mistake he felt that was made 40 years ago, was not involving the local churches in the effort. A few days ago, Lowery told me that many local pastors are excited about the crusade and he feels that, with everything going on in Decatur, and the world, the preaching of the gospel is needed more than ever. On the Christ Is The Answer website Lowery wrote about the Decatur meeting: “We are going to raise the big top again and will activate the Jesus Plan street witnessing program with the co-operation of the local churches in the city. “We will be conducting the prototype of the ‘Jesus Plan’ during this time. It will be exciting to see the local saints manning the street corners for these two weeks, from as many of the 120 congregations as possible.” The reunion with former CITA workers will be held during the last three days of the crusade, Sept. 26, 27, 28. “We encourage any and all to come whenever possible and we will make room each night for testimonies and updates from former members of the teams,” he stated in the newsletter. “We believe this will be a great meeting with much accomplished, new births, old wounds healed, renewed friendships, reconciliations, and so much more. Most of all, Jesus being lifted up every night and day! Accommodations will be available, if arrangements are made in advance!” In a community that has the highest unemployment rate in Illinois, many Decatur residents may be ready to place their confidence in a higher power than the government.
WTVP's 'Shock Theatre' Monster Of Ceremonies
Responds To My Column
I’ve had a lot of fun the past month reading comments from readers about “Shock Theatre” which was aired on WTVP (WAND) Friday nights over a half century ago. Everyone enjoyed Bill Cecil, a local guy who hosted the program If you’ve read the recent comments by people who also watched “Shock Theatre”, they’ve wondered whatever happened to him. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about someone who saw Bill Cecil in 2007 and indicated that, maybe he would read it and respond. He read it and I received the following email from Bill: “Although I don't know you personally, I'll write this as if we are old friends. That happens when someone mentions they remember stuff like Shock Theater. “By the way, I was ‘Hugo, Your Monster of Ceremonies’. Nancy Dillman's recollection of the monster's name is different from mine. I remember him as ‘Terrible Timmie’! “We sure had loads of fun doing that show. I had a couple of daytime jobs while in Decatur, working at Caterpillar, WSOY and St. Mary's Hospital. (That's three, not a couple). “Leaving Decatur in 1967, I worked in an administrative capacity at several different hospitals in the Chicago area before my last hospital job in Wisconsin. “In 1987 my wife (Fran) and I bought an old 1901 Victorian house in Sturgeon Bay, Door County, WI, and made it into a very successful, nationally recognized bed and breakfast. We sold the B&B in 2000 and moved to Baileys Harbor where we now live in a contemporary Victorian home that we designed and built on our Lake Michigan property. “We had been lucky enough to buy a five acre estate with 300' of shoreline. In addition to our home, we moved a c:1860's log home to the property and built a four bedroom stone cottage across the lane as rental vacation homes. You can see them on our web sites at www.vrbo.com/395288 and vrbo.com/395298. “Nancy saw me at Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula Park where I was the curator for seven years. Now at 81, we are attempting to divest ourselves of some of our property. Last winter was a tough one and I have too many driveways to plow! Arizona is looking better each time the snow falls. We used to pray for snow and participate in the cross country ski race, the American Birkebiner 50 kilometer race, as well as race snowmobiles.” Bill also wrote that he advises against getting old, “but still I really wouldn't want to be a teen today. And no, I don't have a Facebook page. “Thanks to Don Custin, I learned of your OP/ED piece which he was kind enough to send to me. It really gave my memory a pleasant jolt. “Thanks! Best regards, HUGO.”
WHEN I responded to Bill and asked for permission to use the letter in this column, I told him that retired local funeral director Forest Wikoff had called me to say that he was a childhood friend of Bill Cecil. Bill wrote back that Forest was “the first kid I met when our family moved to Decatur in 1940 and a friendship developed. He lived a block-and-a-half away. “I've bored you enough with my reminiscences so I'll go walk the dog and then mow the lawn. Sounds exciting?”
IT’S BEEN over half a century since Bill Cecil and Shock Theatre entertained a generation of kids (and adults, too) on Friday nights. In fact, it’s been nearly a half century since Bill lived in Decatur. It’s remarkable, after so long a time, that one of the fond memories of our younger years revolves around a “monster of ceremonies” on Shock Theatre so long ago. It’s nice to know that this “monster of ceremonies” is finding “excitement” these days in mowing the lawn and walking the dog. Just think -- all of this information is the result of one of our readers asking: “Does anyone know whatever happened to Bill Cecil?” Now we know.
Editor & Publisher
Columns Are Printed With The Most Recent Displayed First
* * * *
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.