• 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.
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Posted from the July 29th Print Edition of the Decatur Tribune.
The Last Time I Talked With ‘Tuna’ Was About ‘My Death’
Mayor Mike McElroy
THE DEATH of Mayor Michael T. McElroy (Tuna) on Friday was the first time I can remember that a mayor of our city died in office and it really jolted our community and beyond. As most readers know, and as I’ve explained in the City Beat column, Tuna was a good friend. We were elected to office at the same time (2003) and re-elected to a second term together (2007).
MY LAST conversation with Tuna was when he called me here at the newspaper and we talked for about a half hour about city issues, the stress of the previous council meeting (3 1/2 hours long and tense at times) and other issues. Most people don’t understand the incredible stress that often goes with the mayor’s position and I believe Tuna always felt that I would know because we served on council together when I occupied the mayor’s chair and the stress that went with it. Stress builds up over the years and it can take its toll on those who serve. So, we talked not only as friend to friend but as a former mayor to a present mayor.
DETAILS of what we talked about shall remain confidential, because Tuna’s call wasn’t about any newspaper story but a personal conversation. As we reached the end of our conversation, Tuna said, that, before he let me go, he had to tell me something that really caused him some concern -- and then relief. He referred to the column I wrote earlier this month where police and fire department officers had come to our building on an early weekend morning, because they had a report that something bad had possibly happened to me. THAT WAS the story about my car running with no one around, and, when no one could reach me, officers were prepared to come through the ceiling of the office to get to me. (The story is in the July 1st edition.) Tuna said that he was at the Signature Cup Golf Tournament when he received a message from a friend who had been listening to a police scanner. The friend told him that police and fire department personnel were being dispatched to the Tribune and it was thought that I had either had a heart attack, was incapacitated in some way, or possibly dead.
TUNA tried to find out more about what had happened, but it took awhile and he began to believe the worst had happened. (He was one of the few people who has my cellphone and private phone line numbers but apparently didn’t have either with him.) Tuna told me that he even drove by my house to see if cars or other people were in the driveway as if something had happened to me.
“I REALLY felt bad until I knew you were okay,” he told me. “When I read your column, then I understood what had happened and was relieved it was a false alarm.” I told him it was something like Mark Twain is alleged to have said: “The report of my death was greatly exaggerated.” We both laughed and he said he always felt better when we talked and I told him that I also enjoyed those times.
ONLY a few days later, I received the news that Tuna was dead and I thought about our last conversation and how we had joked about “my death” -- and both of us were relieved it wasn’t true. But, this time, it was true -- and the “report of his death” was not exaggerated. Tuna was gone and there would be no more conversations or laughs between us -- not in this life. I’ve been editor of this newspaper for a long, long time and, aside from the death of a family member, there’s been no death that has directly impacted me more than Tuna’s death -- and I’m sure many have the same feeling. Writing about city government will never be the same for me -- without my friend, Tuna.
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Bob Fallstrom and I were in the height of our “history appreciation glory” as grand marshals of the parade to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the founding of Macon County in 2004. I remember that I had to buy a jean jacket at the last minute and the only one they had was about four sizes too big for me.
Some Fond Memories From One Of The ‘Kids’
SINCE long-time Decatur Herald & Review icon Bob Fallstrom passed away last week at the age of 88, we’ve heard a lot of reminiscing about personal experiences and encounters with the veteran writer. Our own sports editor, J. Thomas McNamara, remembers Bob in his column on page 12 of this week's print edition of the Decatur Tribune. A lot of people in Central Illinois knew Bob, which is understandable because he worked at the daily newspaper for 66 years.
BOB Fallstrom was the face of the daily newspaper and I had contact with him, at various events and times, over most of the years he worked there. When people mention how long I’ve been editor of this newspaper (nearly a half century) I always remember that I was in the third grade when Bob started at the daily newspaper. Eight years ago, during a forum on newspapers at the Macon County History Museum, I was on a panel with Bob and Horace Livingston, publisher of the Voice newspaper.
WHEN WE were asked how many years we had been at our respective newspapers, after Horace and I related our decades in our positions, Bob then looked at us and jokingly said, “You’re just kids! Let me tell you about being at a newspaper for a lot of years!” Bob had both of us beat by about 20 years!
I REMEMBER Bob as a lover of Macon County history and that was where we had a real connection -- because one of my favorite parts of this newspaper is in articles recalling our history. A decade ago, Bob and I were grand marshals of the parade and festival that celebrated the 175th anniversary of the founding of Macon County. We rode in a buggy together and had quite-a-bit of time to talk about the county’s history and how important it was to keep it alive so new generations would be able to learn about it.
I SAW a lot of Bob in recent years. He was usually at some event I attended or was a member of a service club where I spoke and we were able to touch bases from time to time. I certainly always read his stories in the daily newspaper and felt it brought a special positive feeling about the community and to the people he wrote about. Bob called a few times in recent years to get a comment about someone I knew who had passed away, or on an event that was happening.
I REMEMBER the last time I talked with him was during one of those phone calls for a comment. The conversation ended up being about retirement and if he was going to retire someday. He told me that he was never going to retire. He said: “When people retire from the work they enjoy, they don’t last very long. They die.” Bob loved his “work” and had no intention of retiring.
BELIEVE ME, I’ve thought about those words many times since he spoke to me about retirement -- and I understand completely what he was talking about. I guess that’s why it is a little ironic that, even though he had some health issues, a few weeks after his “retirement”, Bob died. A newspaper can’t replace a Bob Fallstrom -- and neither can a family or a community. I know that’s true -- even if the words are coming from one of “the kids” Bob Fallstrom was talking about.
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--Posted from 7/15/15 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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?
--POSTED 7/11/15 from Decatur Tribune Print Edition
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‘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?
Posted 7/3/15 from 7/1/15 print edition of Decatur Tribune.
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All Of Their Tomorrows For The Rest Of Our Todays
Korean War Monument In Graceland/Fairlawn in Decatur.
ON THIS day (Wednesday) 65 years ago, our neighbor’s son, “Donnie”, was about as carefree as a young man could be after graduating from high school. I was just a kid, but I knew Donnie had movie star good looks and all the girls in our neighborhood were crazy about him. His future was bright and he had the personality and drive to be anything he wanted to be in life. He was his parents’ only son and they were so proud of who and what he was -- and would be in life.
THEN, tomorrow came and everything would change for Donnie and many young people like him -- and their families. On June 25, 1950, North Korean tanks and infantry crossed the Thirty-Eighth Parallel and the Korean War began which quickly involved the U.S. The three-year war cost the United Nations and South Korean forces over 200,000 casualties. When the war was over, 55,000 Americans had given their lives in the conflict.
DONNIE came home from the war, but all of his plans changed because he had changed -- physically and mentally. The handsome young man had lost his right arm and leg, along with one of his eyes. He was terribly disfigured and he faced an uncertain future. Not long after he returned, his parents and Donnie moved away. I never heard from or saw him again.
I OBSERVED all of this as a young boy and I’m sure there was a lot about Donnie’s condition, and how it impacted his parents and friends, that I didn’t know because of my age. But, in the 65 years since the “Forgotten War” began I’ve always thought of Donnie and his life before and after the war. Obviously, Donnie’s experience left a permanent impression on me.
I DROVE over to the Korean War Monument in Graceland/Fairlawn Cemetery Saturday afternoon. It is a beautiful, serene setting and certainly an appropriate monument for those from Macon County who gave their lives in the Korean War. I’ve been there several times in the past and have been the speaker at the Memorial Day services a few times -- the most recent in 2014. I am definitely familiar with it and the Charles Parlier Chapter No. 24 of the Korean War Veterans Association, did an outstanding job in making sure those who gave their all are not forgotten.
I DIDN’T see any other visitors at the cemetery when I was there and, as I shot a number of photos of the monument and remembered those who didn’t come home alive, it was so respectfully peaceful there. I read the names of those inscribed on the monument. They had lived in Macon County, and had given their lives in the Korean War -- when I was too young to fully appreciate the depth and impact of their sacrifices. I WAS attracted to two engraved statements at the site. One, which is on the side of a granite bench reads: “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE”. The other, which is inscribed in stone in front of the large granite tablet, which has the names of Macon County residents who died in the war, reads: “WHEN YOU GO HOME, TELL THEM OF US AND SAY, ‘WE GAVE ALL OF OUR TOMORROWS FOR THE REST OF THEIR TODAYS’.” Those are extremely powerful messages about their sacrifices.
THE LESSON I learned as a child, from Donnie and his parents, was that our heroes have the same dreams and goals in life as the rest of us -- and they center around the American Dream. But, when duty called in the Korean War, they answered and 55,000 of them from neighborhoods all over the nation -- just like Donnie’s neighborhood -- didn’t come back alive. Many, like Donnie, who did come back were changed forever from what they once were in mind and body.
AS LONG as there is evil in the world, there will be war -- and, as long as this nation stands, there will be Americans ready to give everything to keep us free. All of us owe so much to the brave men and women who have answered the nation’s call -- and kept us the greatest nation on earth. May God bless those who served, and are serving, and may we honor their memory -- and those who gave their lives in the Korean War -- which began 65 years ago this week. Indeed, all of their tomorrows was the price for all the rest of our todays. That fact should never be forgotten.
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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!
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Don’t Pity The ‘Funky Smelling Neighbor’
RECENTLY, Jeff D’Alessio of the Champaign News Gazette wrote an article bragging on a report from the U. S. Census Bureau (as of July, 2014) about Champaign being the fastest growing city in Illinois -- at least among cities with a population of 50,000 or more. There’s not anything wrong about promoting such favorable news regarding your community. I’m sure we would be doing the same if Decatur was named first in that category.
WHAT UPSET a number of Decatur people was the reference D’Alessio made about Decatur. Here’s the paragraph he wrote about our city: “Poor Decatur. Only six U.S. cities have had more residents flee during that same stretch. Lumped into a category with the usual suspects — Detroit, Flint, Gary — our funky-smelling neighbor's population is 2,116 less than it was five years ago, falling to 74,010.”
DECATUR City Councilman Patrick McDaniel called D’Alessio’s remark about our city “rude”. McDaniel also fired off a letter to the News-Gazette stating: “Having been born and raised in Decatur, and presently serving as a member of the Decatur City Council, I found the description you gave of Decatur as ‘our funky-smelling neighbor’ somewhat offensive and showed poor journalistic standards. “I can't remember over the years of any of Decatur's local media ever using disapproving adjectives to describe Champaign or any other Central Illinois community. “Champaign nor any other community in the country could be as lucky to have what you call funky-smells that Decatur may have. Those smells are the smell of money being made from the crops grown on Central Illinois farms and processed in Decatur's many Agri-Business Industries who have helped put Central Illinois on the world map and made Decatur the Agri-Business Capital of the World.”
McDANIEL also invited D’Alessio to allow him to give him a personal tour of Decatur and “I might even allow you to take a whiff of Decatur's ‘funky-smelling air’ and not charge you for it.” DecaturCityLimitless also responded, not only congratulating Champaign, but also pointing out a few positives about Decatur, including the following: • Top 12 Best Illinois Cities for Families • Top 50 Best Cities for Global Trade • Top 50 Safest Cities in Illinois (Our crime rates are lower than Champaign, Bloomington, Peoria, and Springfield.) “Oh, and that smell? It’s the smell of money… corn and soybean processing plants that feed the world.”
I KNOW, from experience, that a lot of columnists try to be “clever” and include certain expressions to attract attention to what they write. Well, D’Alessio certainly accomplished that goal with what he wrote -- at least in Decatur. Also, it seems for a long time, some in other communities like to “put down Decatur” as a really bad place to live. That’s too bad and shows a gross misunderstanding of the strengths of our community and is a slam against the fine people who live here.
MANY of us have worked very hard (and continue to work hard) over the years to move Decatur forward and the going has been tough -- but a lot of good things are here and progress is being made on even greater things, and the enthusiasm and anticipation are growing with each passing day. So, no one should “pity poor Decatur” -- we’re doing better each day and the future looks very bright so the pity should be used for someone else.
I WILL have to confess that I’ve lived in Decatur for so long that I don’t even notice a “smell”. Maybe that’s because I measure Decatur by the strength of our heart and willingness to work hard to succeed -- and not what is said by those who judge us by their uppity nose.
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--Posted From Editor's Viewpoint column in June 3rd print edition of the Decatur Tribune newspaper.
The ‘Distracting’ Sights And Sounds On The Streets
I WAS stopped at the traffic signal at North Main and Grand Avenue a few days ago and, while waiting for the light to change to green, I glanced over at the car to my right and immediately saw something that was both amazing and repulsive. The driver of the car had his finger up his nose so far that he appeared to be trying to establish diplomatic relations with China! Maybe, in the interest of not distracting other drivers, if he is going to do spring cleaning on his nose in a car, he should do it in the privacy of his own garage.
WE READ and hear a lot these days about drivers being distracted by talking on their cellphones and how dangerous it is to talk on the phone and drive. In fact, we now have a law that makes it illegal to drive and talk on a hand-held cellphone because it could result in an accident. Compared to a lot of other things that I’ve seen drivers do, using a cellphone seems like a minor distraction by comparison.
A COUPLE of months ago, while waiting in my car for the traffic signal to turn green, I looked over at a car next to me and that car was so full of cigarette smoke (I guess it came from cigarettes) that I could barely see the four people inside. It was like a fog had descended on the car. The driver had his window open just a little and the cigarette smoke was pouring out of the car like someone had set off a smoke bomb inside! How the driver was able to see the road through that fog was something of a miracle -- they could barely see each other.
HOW ABOUT the drivers who are distracted by talking with passengers in their car? The drivers with the real problem are the ones who have to use their arms while talking and are unable to have their hands on the steering wheel. How about the ones that even turn their heads, at what seems like 180 degrees, to look back and talk to the people in the back seat while they are driving down the road? I fully expect to see (like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”) the head of one of these drivers do a full 360 degrees turn while they are talking and driving!
ONE Saturday afternoon last summer, I decided to get my classic Corvette out to take a brief spin around our fair city. Since I keep busy with the newspaper, I don’t have the time to drive it much, but on this particular afternoon I thought I would get it out of storage, remove the top and enjoy the drive through the downtown area. I headed up North Franklin and further north on Water Street and felt the sunshine on my face and the wind blowing through my hair. Life was good. I turned left at Pershing Road drove over to Oakland and was stopped at the light at Pershing and Oakland, enjoying the day and minding my own business (for a change).
MY ENJOYMENT was suddenly interrupted by a loud belching/ sneezing/screaming sound to my right! I immediatey looked over and saw a rather large woman driver, holding one of those huge soft-drink cups (that appeared to hold about 20 gallons of liquid) smiling at me. I didn’t know if the “not-of-this-world” sound she had just made was the result of drinking too much soda (or something else) -- or an imitation of the mating call of a wild animal! The Corvette and I made a hasty departure.
I REALIZE that I’m much older, and somewhat more mature, than when I first got my driver’s license decades ago and drove in Decatur. However, the distractions I encounter in driving around the city today, do not resemble the ones I remember when I was a teenager cruisin’ Eldo. Today, when I take a leisurely drive in my car, I feel less like I’m cruisin’ the city I love and more like I’m on a safari!
It’s No Longer A ‘Major Happening’ In Local News
A READER of this newspaper sent me an email the other day, which caused me to do some serious reflection on what is locally a “major happening”. I won’t mention the man’s name, because I believe he had the best intentions and what he wrote came from an honest perspective -- and I don’t want him to get any negative feedback.
HE WROTE, in part, “I have been a subscriber to your newspaper now for several years and have always felt you covered major happenings in Decatur in a fair manner. “I received the edition for this week and I was shocked to see that there was no article in the paper regarding Mrs. Sherri Williamson-Perkins as the newly-elected School Board President. “To my knowledge she is the first African American female to hold such a position for District 61. “If I'm in error about being the first, I believe she still should warrant an article on such an achievement in our district.”
I RESPONDED to him and explained that, Dr. Jeanelle Norman was the first African-American Decatur School Board President who served many years with distinction. The gentleman responded to my email by stating: “You are absolutely correct regarding Dr. Norman. I had forgotten about the years she indeed served as the school board president. “I totally understand you are unable to cover every event occurring in Decatur, however, this still was a major event for our community and especially the African American Community, so I would hope you will consider placing a small article in a future paper covering this as many of the younger generation would not remember Dr. Norman having served in that position.” OBVIOUSLY, over the many, many years that I’ve been editor I’ve covered a lot of “firsts” and the people who made them. They have broken the gender and color barriers in many areas of our community’s leadership. While I certainly congratulate Sherri Perkins on being the new school board president, today, African-Americans being elected to an office is generally not a “major happening” in Decatur. I understand the pride in such an achievement, especially in the black community, and such success should inspire others, but I believe most citizens in Decatur have moved beyond making race an issue in selecting leaders. That wasn’t close to being true when I became editor of this newspaper. I THINK what continues to happen in our community is what the civil rights movement was and is about -- that people who now serve as our leaders are not there because of the color of their skin, but the “content of their character”. All of us should continue to work to inspire others who need good examples and we should always remember the sacrifices that have been made, and are being made to make us a better community. That needs to keep happening. YES, we’ve come a long way in 50 years. It hasn’t been easy but I have personally observed that progress. Decatur is not a perfect community when it comes to race relations, but attitudes have been changing -- especially in selecting those who lead us. Constant vigilance is needed to make sure we continue to build on what others have handed us through sacrifice. We need to constantly inspire others by remembering those who inspired us to be better people. Certainly, people like Sherri Perkins, who devote a lot of time and energy to make the community better need to be acknowledged for their efforts -- and thanked by all of us.
ALTHOUGH Decatur certainly has come a long way in race relations, and we have celebrated a lot of “firsts” over the years, we need to work continually to reinforce the positive changes we’ve seen. We also need to work even harder to make sure all of our citizens who want to succeed in Decatur are offered opportunities to do so. Today, in Decatur, an African-American man or woman being elected or selected to a leadership position is no longer considered a “major event”. The day for that to be a “major happening” in the news department is from another era. It’s not “major news” because it is no longer unique in our community -- and that’s the real story we need to read.
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Common Sense Is Dead And We Mourn His Passing
SEVERAL readers over the past several years have sent me the following eulogy for Common Sense. I’ve read it before and probably most of you reading this column today are familiar with it. However, I believe it is worth considering again in light of what’s been happening in our nation and world. Here it is: “The Death of Common Sense”.
“TODAY we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: • Knowing when to come in out of the rain; • Why the early bird gets the worm; • Life isn't always fair; • And maybe it was my fault.
“COMMON SENSE lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
“COMMON SENSE lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
“COMMON SENSE took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
“COMMON SENSE was preceded in death, • by his parents, Truth and Trust, • by his wife, Discretion, • by his daughter, Responsibility, • and by his son, Reason.
“HE IS survived by his 5 stepbrothers; • I Know My Rights • I Want It Now • Someone Else Is To Blame • I'm A Victim • Pay me for Doing Nothing
“Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.”
If you are like me, you have to be concerned about the absence of common sense in so many aspects of our lives today. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Common Sense is dead, but he certainly is on life support. There is no question in my mind that “common sense” these days is very “uncommon”.
I shot this photo of Clayton Moore
following my interview in 1985.
It Was A Thrill To Interview My Childhood Hero
I REALLY enjoyed compiling our “Scrapbook” feature that was in this week’s print edition on pages 4 and 5 of the Decatur Tribune. That’s because it’s about the Lone Ranger, the childhood hero of so many of us when we were growing up in a different era. Back then, Westerns on radio, television and in the movies featured characters who were larger than life -- and most of us wanted to be just like them. ALTHOUGH I liked Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, the Cisco Kid and others, it was the Lone Ranger that attracted me because he had a strong sensitivity to right and wrong, never charged for helping anyone and often didn’t hang around to even be thanked by the people he helped. He never killed anyone (he only shot to disarm) and, most of the time, he would encourage those he met to do and be better.
THE LONE Ranger was a great role model for so many in my generation, but, unlike most of the Western stars back then, he was a fictional character. However, Clayton Moore, the man who portrayed him in all of the television shows (except a few when John Hart took his place when there was a contract dispute) was real and over time it was hard to separate the masked man from Moore. That’s why it was so enjoyable for me to interview Moore when he came to Decatur to appear at a Special Olympics event at Millikin University in 1985.
I WILL admit that I had just a little apprehension about meeting the hero of my childhood. I wondered if he would be anything like the fictional character that I had admired many years earlier. I had interviewed a few “screen heroes” over the years who had much less popularity than the Lone Ranger and was disappointed in them. Those interviews were with minor Western stars -- with names most people have forgotten. I’ll leave it at that. All of them have passed on.
I WAS sure that Clayton Moore would not create the same negative impression when I interviewed him -- but, it had been a lot of years since I was a kid, and I didn’t know for sure what to expect. I guess I didn’t want to be disappointed and have fond childhood memories of a hero I admired crushed to pieces.
WHEN I interviewed Clayton Moore thirty years ago, I found him to be everything I had hoped he would be -- and even more. One of the photos I shot of him is on page 5 and there’s more in our archives somewhere. I also had the “Newsline” daily television program at that time, so somewhere in all of the boxes of interview tapes, I also have the video interview with Clayton Moore buried deep in the tons of boxes of recording tape that are in storage.
CLAYTON MOORE was gracious, patient and seemed to be very pleased that I knew so much about him as the Lone Ranger and that I had been such a big fan when I was a kid. I found myself being a big fan of the Lone Ranger and Clayton Moore all over again. I never dreamed, when I was watching him on television years earlier that I would be talking with him and asking all kinds of questions decades later while he patiently answered all of them.
I LEFT the interview with a real sense that Clayton Moore in person was no different than the Lone Ranger on the screen that I admired as a kid. Later that day, one of the reporters from WAND-TV told me that, when she interviewed him, Moore had asked about me and then added: “He is really a nice man.” Over the years I’ve been blessed to be honored many times as a journalist, mayor and private citizen, but to have my childhood hero, the Lone Ranger, say to someone that I’m “really a nice man” ranks up there with the best. I really didn’t feel worthy of his compliment, but it sure made me feel good -- and still does.
UNFORTUNATELY, I never had the opportunity to thank him for the kind words, because he “rode off” to other places -- just like in the movies. But no one had to tell me who that masked man was who made me and millions of others feel better about ourselves -- it was the Lone Ranger. “Hi-yo Silver, and away!”
Posted from the April 29th print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Remember ‘Basic’ Television Programming?
SOMETHING happened to our cable tv service last week. We have the basic cable service, but it became even more “basic”. The only things that worked on the set were the on/off button and channel buttons. When we couldn’t fix the problem, Comcast was called and do you know where the Comcast employee was from who tried to solve the problem? The Phillipines! That’s what she said when asked. When she made the adjustment to the modem in order to restore the basic service we had, it made me think seriously about where we are today. If a woman who works in the Phillipines is able to make adjustments on our television modem from thousands of miles away, what else can companies see or do in our home from thousands of miles away that we don’t even know about?
WELL, at least I am now able to use my favorite feature on cablevision -- the program guide that has the name and description of what’s on each channel. I use that feature a lot because I’m always searching for something worthwhile to watch in the small amount of time I have to watch tv. There’s so many channels and so little to watch that’s worthwhile. If some of the titles of the shows get any worse, the program guide might have to be rated for adults only!
REMEMBER “the good old days” when we only had three or four channels to select from and there was always something worth watching -- even with so few channels available? That was back in the 1960s when FCC Chairman Newton Minow called television programming “a vast wasteland”. I wonder how he views what’s on television today. Today, “basic cable” costs me $138.00 per month and that doesn’t grant access to much of anything that’s on the channels. Decades ago, we had “basic television”, along with an antenna -- and the cost was $00.00 per month! WHILE I’m on the subject of television viewing, what are the odds of changing the channel during a commercial break and not running into a commercial break on the channel you’re turning to -- even two channels where both are carrying sporting events? I always seem to run into more commercials when I change stations to check on the score of a game on another channel!
BY THE WAY, when it comes to commercial breaks, there was a time when it was difficult to make it to the kitchen (or bathroom) and back to the television during a commercial break. Not anymore. I think I can use the bathroom, wash my hands, pick up a snack in the kitchen, defeat ISIS, and get back to the television program before the commercials are over. What I really dislike is, when they have several commercials in a row, then come back to say the program will continue in a minute -- and run more commercials. They keep coming back and announcing the name of the show so the viewer won’t forget what show he is watching!
OVER THE past few years I’ve become an even greater fan of PBS, not only because they have some extremely interesting programs like Frontline and more -- but because the only commercials they have are between programs. The only problem that presents for many television viewers is that, many times, the bladder can’t last as long as an hour between visits to the bathroom! Maybe one commercial break every half hour should be mandatory out of respect for senior viewers.
ACTUALLY, I know that television will be with us for the rest of our lives because, despite all of the trashy programs, there really is some quality programming available -- and that’s what makes it worthwhile. I wouldn’t want to be without it as a source of information, sports and entertainment. Still, I can’t help but let my mind drift back 50 years to my free television programming on that black and white screen in the mahogany television console in the living room. It was in the first house I bought with my first car in the driveway. The payments on the house and car totalled $115.00 a month -- $23.00 less than I pay per month for television programming today, plus the seller of my first house left his television antenna on the roof so it was free, too. Now, that was inexpensive “basic” television programming!
--Posted 3/29/15 from print edition of Decatur Tribune (3/25/15)
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Inexpensive Lie Detector Test Might Work
IT’S amazing how words have changed and been altered during my lifetime. Probably the most familiar word, which isn’t used much any more, is “lie”. Not many people ever admit to telling a lie these days -- and even though there is often indisputable evidence to the contrary, they look us in the eye and sometimes angrily deny telling a lie.
WHEN I was a small child my father had his own “lie detector” to use if I ever thought about telling a lie -- or so I believed at that young age. He told me there was a spot between my eyes that would start turning red if I didn’t tell the truth. Sometimes, he would ask me a question at the dinner table and then look intently between my eyes to see if the spot was turning red.
I NEVER had any occasion to lie to my dad, and if I had, I would have been terrified to face the “lie detector”. It was a lot like the claim back then that your nose would grow if you told a lie. Parents didn’t have the expert advice to deal with their young children back then so they passed along myths and other creative methods of trying to keep their children on the straight and narrow way. I often wondered if the place between my eyes (which I never saw when I looked in a mirror) would burst into flames if I told a really BIG lie!
ALL THESE decades later, I thought about my dad’s creative “lie detector” method when I first heard NBC News’ Brian Williams apologize for claiming that he was on a helicopter that was forced down in a war zone in 2003. “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” Williams said. About all of you know about Williams’ “mistake” because it’s been on the news for the past week. He has even given up his anchor position for several days while his network investigates this story (which he repeated for 12 years as being true) and some other comments he has made about what he saw in news stories he has covered.
A NEW word has emerged about the lie Williams repeatedly told, at least I don’t remember hearing it used before. Instead of admitting to a lie, Williams “misremembered”. Undoubtedly, some politicians are already drooling about the opportunity to use that word -- “misremembered” -- when they are caught in a lie.
“LIE” has been watered down over the years evolving from “fib” to “untruth” to “miscue”, “misstep”, “misspoke” and many other terms to soften the word. Republican and Democrat politicians have tried to make “lie” more acceptable to the human ear and eye over the years. Here’s some examples...”I am not a crook”, “I did not have sex with that woman -- Miss Lewinsky”, “There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”, or “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance. If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.”
THE PROBLEM in recent years is that about everything politicians say someone has recorded. In the case of President Obama’s “like your doctor” statement on selling his healthcare plan, network cameras recorded him telling the lie to 23 different audiences. If politicians will not admit to telling a lie to millions of people, what can we do to determine the truth from a lie when any of them makes a statement?
I THINK we should start calling a “lie” by its proper name -- “lie”. Since we have celebrities and politicians (both Republicans and Democrats) who lie routinely, and then lie about the lie they tell...we may have to use a simpler way of finding the lie. I’m going to start looking at the spot between their eyes to see if it starts turning red when they are talking! Many of them will be as red as Rudolph’s nose and may be asked to guide Santa’s sleigh at night. It should work: after all my dad would not tell a lie about his lie detector! Still, for added confirmation, I’m going to look at the length of a politician’s nose before and after he tells me something he claims to be the truth.
A Salute And Thanks To The Macon County Honor Guard
THE Macon County Honor Guard has been the subject of a few “Letters to the Editor” during the past month. A Bethany man, Larry T. Kellogg, posted the first letter, which was somewhat critical of the honor guard for not being able to be present at the memorial service for his father, who was a veteran. Apparently, there was a Christmas party planned for the veterans, with the catering already contracted, which created a conflict.
RON Sloan, a member of the honor guard responded to Mr. Kellogg’s letter to point out the reason the group was not able to participate in the service and also to explain all of the services the Macon County Honor Guard participates in during each year -- a staggering number. Mr. Kellogg responded to Mr. Sloan’s letter under this week’s “Letters To The Editor”.
OBVIOUSLY, our letters to the editors contain the opinions of the letter writers, not mine, and they are free to express those opinions in this newspaper -- as long as profanity is not used and the length of the letter is reasonable. I understand why this is a sensitive issue for Mr. Kellogg because of the death of his father and wanting to honor his father’s memory and his service to our country. For that service, I’m sure all of us want to express our appreciation and also express our condolences to Mr. Kellogg on his father’s death.
HOWEVER, based on personal experience, I’ve always had a high level of respect for the members of the Macon County Honor Guard. I’ve been at countless events and services where the weather has been bone-chilling cold or so hot that I thought I would pass out -- but the Macon County Honor Guard was there. There are many stories from families who appreciated the time and energy the honor guard members expended to add a “special honor” to the memorial service of their beloved veterans.
AS MR. SLOAN wrote in his response letter: “The guard is made up of mostly 60, 70, and 80 year old men who are retired or semi-retired. We receive no pay for doing a job that we feel HAS to be done... “...Each funeral takes around 18 Honor Guard members. We have approximately 25 members, so you see we have pretty much a full time job with no pay, other than the satisfaction of giving a veteran his just dues. “Here’s the Macon County Honor Guard 2014 Report: A total of 163 funerals were provided; 21 doubles (2 in one day); 1 triple (three in one day); 50 out of town.” HE CONTINUED: “We traveled 4,216 miles, used 3,549 rounds of ammunition, plus Memorial Day Service (2) Veterans Day Service, Pearl Harbor Remembrance, flag presentations/educations at schools, churches, colleges and conventions.” Last year, they were unable to honor 50 requests for their services at funerals. Mr. Sloan wrote: “Most people retire to play golf, fish, camp, go to Florida for the winter or to just chill. By volunteering we have given up our retirement. We choose to do this as we all feel our nation’s veterans and our comrades in arms deserve us to be there for them if at all possible.” Fortunately, in Mr. Kellogg’s case, the Moultrie County Honor Guard and the U. S. Navy were able to participate in his father’s service and that’s good to hear.
OVER THE years, I believe the Macon County Honor Guard has served our veterans and their families with distinction and honor -- and I salute their efforts and the reasons behind what they do and they’ve always had my support. For obvious reasons, they can’t be at all of the services -- but last year they were able to honor over 75% of the requests. That’s a very high percentage for an all-volunteer group of mostly senior citizen members.
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.