There was an era in Decatur high school sports when our city was a mecca for championship-caliber basketball teams known, and feared, across the state.
Decatur High School, which became Stephen Decatur High School in the late 1950s, was always competing at a high level in basketball and won a lot of plaques and trophies over the years.
It was a high school basketball dynasty with tremendous community support.
Jack Sunderlik, who played for Stephen Decatur’s “Runnin’ Reds” during some of those high profile years in the early 1960s, sent me an email last week with a question that deserves to be answered.
Sunderlik, who was an IBCA Hall of Famer at SDHS and also a Hall of Fame forward at Millikin University, wrote: “You would think that all school districts and cities would be very proud to display plaques and trophies won by their high schools in the IHSA State Basketball Tournament.
“Decatur High School/Stephen Decatur High School made 23 appearances in the IHSA State Basketball Tournament. To appear in the state tournament a team would have to win the District Tournament, Regional Tournament, Sectional Tournament, and Super-Sectional Tournament. The Runnin’ Reds won 10 trophies in the state tournament. They won 4 – First Place Trophies, 1 – Second Place Trophy, 1 – Third Place Trophy, and 4 – Fourth Place Trophies. “Where are these trophies and plaques displayed for public viewing? Are they in the School District Hall of Fame, or the Civic Center, or the Public Library?
“Most of the present high school students in Decatur aren’t even aware of the history of Decatur, Illinois as a hot bed for basketball back in the 1960’s and the existence of these plaques and trophies. Where is the pride of Decatur? If you find out anything would you please let the public and me know where we can view these historical artifacts in Decatur’s history.”
Jack Sunderlik, was an important member of the Stephen Decatur High School’s 1962 Illinois State Basketball Championship team — the last public high school team in Decatur to win a state basketball championship.
Where’s all the hardware those DHS/SDHS basketball teams won over the years when they were the talk of the state?
• HONOR — One of the great honors I had during my years as Mayor of Decatur was to honor the 1962 championship team at their 45th reunion that was held in Decatur in 2007.
It was a special team that held a special place in the heart of Decatur.
• CANDIDATE — I mentioned last week in this column that a fourth candidate for the Macon County Coroner’s position was going to throw his hat into the ring, but he had not announced at press time last week.
Now Whalen Vancil has announced that he is a Republican candidate for cor-oner.
Vancil has been a Registered Nurse for over 35 years in the operating room of a local Level 1 Truma Center.
He said: “Not only have I compassionately cared for each of my patients but, I have assisted multiple surgeons in the procedures. Additionally, I have collaborated in the purchase of equipment, new procedures, and the training of staff.
“With my experiences, the compassion of a Registered Nurse, my professionalism and attention to detail, I am fully qualified to run for the office of Macon County Coroner.
Whalen Vancil joins three other announced candidates for the office of Macon County Coroner.
The other three candidates are: Michael Burkham, Tiffany Hall and Jeffrey Kashefska.
The candidate filing period is November 27, 2023 through December 4, 2023 for the March 19, 2024 General Primary Election.
Present coroner Mike Day is not running for re-election and when his present term is finished he will have served in the position for 20 years.
Other Macon County offices that are up for election are: Precinct Committeeperson, County Board Member districts 1-5, Auditor, Circuit Clerk, Recorder and State’s Attorney.
• HOT TOPIC — The potential move of Heritage Behavioral Health Center to Northgate, which is located across the street from St. Teresa High School continues to draw comments, for and against, in our “Letters to the Editor” section on pages 2 and 3 of the print and online editions of this week’s Decatur Tribune.
There is a strong feeling from those who are opposed to moving Heritage to that location that the mayor and city council should take a stand against the move — even though, unless rezoning has to be done — the mayor and council have no power to stop the move if Heritage decides to move forward with the Northgate location.
Still, some of those who have written letters, indicate that the mayor and city council need to make their views on the potential move known to the public to influence the Heritage decision.
It has been a long time since I’ve received so many public and personal “letters to the editor” on a subject. A majority of the letters have been against the Heritage move to Northgate.
• MEMORIES — It had been months since I was inside Steak ‘n Shake on Pershing Road, or any other location, but I decided to give it another try one evening last week.
The last time I was in Steak ‘n Shake I wrote about how disappointed I was with the dining room operation compared to all of the decades of experiencing dining at the restaurant — going back to the Eldorado and North Main Street locations.
The woman who took my order at the front counter (I don’t like to use the kiosk) could not have been nicer, but it is just so different than what I always experienced when eating there.
It was around 5:00 p.m. when I was there and there were only two other diners in the entire dining room — a far cry from a few years ago when the place would be packed with patrons and the conversation level was high.
When my meal was brought to my table by the same very nice person who took my order it was quite different in its presentation. It was in a plastic basket like we used to get at Dog ‘n Suds and throw-away plastic utensils. I really miss the old Steak ‘n Shake with its silverware, diner plates and glass drinking glasses.
While I was eating my meal I noticed three or four patrons arriving and ordering takeout and I guessed that drive-through and pick-up meals probably constituted a lot of the restaurant’s business.
I also noticed that the patrons I saw coming and going with pick-up were younger people who probably had no problem adjusting to the technology that has impacted many businesses.
Last week, I wrote my “Viewpoint” column about all of the stores that had disappeared from downtown over the years and how many of those buildings were replaced with parking lots.
I miss those stores of the past and I also miss the way many restaurants operated not that long ago, like Steak ‘n Shake.
I wish Steak ‘n Shake the very best and realize that times have changed and adjustments have to be made in order to remain competitive — and stay in business.
Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate things we enjoy until they are no longer available because of changing times.
• THANKS to the IBEW for again decorating downtown with Christmas lights.
I arrived very early downtown one recent morning and, in the darkness, the Christmas lights around the street light poles were an especially inviting presence and got my day started off just right.
• CHECK out this week’s Decatur Tribune for a ton of stories about Decatur’s present and past. If you are not a subscriber, you can subscribe elsewhere on this website for the paper or online edition, or both.
• I JOIN WSOY’s Brian Byers on Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 to discuss the issues of the day — as we’ve done every week for over 20 years.