One of the most beautiful, ornate buildings in the downtown Decatur area is the former Hotel Orlando which today is Orlando Apartments.
The Orlando and the Millikin Court Building occupy the entire east side of the 100 block of South Water Street and, together, present an imposing “fortress” standing proudly in the city’s core area.
The Hotel Orlando, which has stood at the corner of South Water and Wood streets for 107 years, has been a silent witness to a lot of the city’s social and political history over the years, and is the subject of this week’s “Scrapbook” feature on pages 4 and 5 of this week’s print and online editions.
Since our newspaper’s offices are located in the Millikin Court Building next door, I see the Hotel Orlando structure every day.
I share some of the personal memories I have of a time when so much activity impacting Decatur was being made at the Orlando.
Our high school prom was held at the Orlando and, during my early years in business and as editor of this newspaper, a lot of social events and political rallies were held at the Hotel Orlando.
Although the purpose of the building has changed over the past several decades, the beauty of the structure is still an attraction — and the memories of when I attended events there will always be with me.
• TRAFFIC REPORT — I had the ultimate driving insult while on Route 51 South heading for the office one early morning last week.
I was observing the speed limit and a garbage truck passed by me like I was sitting still with its yellow lights flashing!
The driver was in a hurry! Maybe he had an emergency trash can to pick up!
• IMPACT — I have to admit that, when I drove to the office one morning last week that every driver around me seemed to be observing the speed limit and weren’t weaving in and out of traffic lanes.
It’s amazing the positive impact a Decatur Police Vehicle can have by being in the midst of the morning traffic flow!
• LONG ODDS — Evelyn Wright sent me the following information: “Camarah Wright, was born Sept 26, 2023, at Carle Hospital, Urbana, IL, daughter of Timothy Wright and Haley Owens of Long Creek, IL. The mother, Haley Owens, was born, September 26, 1994. The grandmother is Diana Owens, of Sullivan, IL, who was born Sept 26, 1964. The odds are near 50 million to one, that these 3 share the same birthday.”
Wow! That is an interesting same date birth record.
• ‘THE HOOD’ — Don (Joker) Belcher, a friend from my high school days, stopped by the newspaper last week. I hadn’t seen him since we were teenagers.
One of the questions that he had for me was why, when I was mayor, I didn’t pass an ordinance banning winter sledding using a car hood — as it is pulled behind a pickup truck?
He was jokingly referring to the time that he, “Worm” Auer and myself removed an old junk car’s hood, turned it upside down, tied a rope on the front of it and hooked it up to Worm Auer’s dad’s pick-up truck and headed for the snowy country roads near Hammond.
Worm drove the truck and Joker and I took turns sledding on the hood!
There was no way to guide it, so it would fly off of the road and onto the grass shoulder or into the ditch next to the road. There were moments of being airborne in the hood!
Of course, we were all fortunate to have survived without any broken limbs or anything else and, now, looking back a lifetime later, I wonder what in the world we were thinking to climb onto that hood without any control and go all over the road, into the ditches and anywhere else the hood flew?
To answer his question about passing an ordinance against hood sledding, I probably didn’t introduce it to the city council because I figured no one would be crazy enough to try that today — especially with the hoods on today’s cars!
If you wonder what kids did before the internet, that’s one example.
Worm, Joker and Oz were the original “Boys in the Hood” — but at least we didn’t break the speed limit for hood driving/flying!
Do you ever wonder how we survived those teenage years?
• SAD DOG — I was walking in the 200 block of North Franklin the other day when I saw a dog sitting in the front seat of a car, looking a little sad.
He looked at me and I smiled at the dog. He barked and showed his teeth!!!
Well EXCUSE ME!!!!
That kind of reminded me of the song from my teenage years: “Never smile at a crocodile. No you can’t get friendly with a crocodile…”
I guess I shouldn’t smile at an “out-of-sorts” dog, either.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider.
I’ve enjoyed our weekly discussions for the past 20 years.