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CITY BEAT: LOTS OF HISTORY MADE AT SEVERAL PLACES IN THE DOWNTOWN DECATUR AREA

Paul Osborne
Editor/Publisher

     As I’m walking to the downtown post office from this newspaper each day I often think of events that happened in downtown Decatur’s long history —at the very places I walk by, or on, each day.
     For instance, this week’s “Scrapbook” feature (pages 4 and 5 of the print and online editions) is about the Macon County Jail’s first prisoners being publicly whipped by the sheriff.
     Of course, that was a long time ago
     Macon County’s first jail was erected 192 years ago on the northwest corner of Water and Prairie Streets where the public whippings took place.
     Obviously, that corner has evolved over the years and no one (except this editor) probably ever thinks of that early jail and the public whippings at that location when they walk by the site.
The building that would later house the National Bank of Decatur stood at that location before a new bank location was located a half block south from the corner on Water Street. (Today’s Busey Bank.)
     The building at Water and Prairie would be remodeled later and became known as the Hecht Building and held the offices of several tenants — including my office a few years after starting my business in 1964 where I did publishing and public relations work until buying this newspaper in 1969.

     The Hecht Building, along with every other building on the west side of the 200 block of North Water Street, was demolished in the late 1990s to make way for a new multi-story office building which today houses Hickory Point Bank and several other businesses.
     However, despite all of the changes that have taken place at that location over the past 192 years, that northwest corner of Water and Prairie will always be where Macon County’s first jail was erected and the public whippings took place by the sheriff.
     As someone who has written thousands of articles about downtown’s history, many of the places I walk by numerous times a week, cause me to remember what happened there so long ago — including some of the places Abraham Lincoln left his mark that I see each day from my office windows.
     There’s been a lot of significant history made in a few blocks area of downtown Decatur.

     • KARL Muerlot has an interesting letter on page 2 of this week’s print and online editions. I didn’t know Karl when he was an outstanding athlete for Decatur High School, but have known him for the past 40 years. He also had his law office not far from my newspaper office on the fourth floor of the Millikin Court Building for several years.
     I also played basketball against and with Karl at the Decatur Rac-quet Club over 20 years ago.

     I found this photo of the 1951 team that was printed on a program. Karl is in the middle of the second row. (Number 3).
     It is kind of neat to see “Decatur” on the front of the team’s jerseys.
     Legendary Coach Gay Kintner is also in the photo with Karl and the team.
     For decades Decatur High School’s basketball team was known (and respected) all over the state.

     Check out Karl’s letter on page 2.

     • NO LIGHTS? What is it with people driving with no headlights on when it is foggy or even dark?
     I saw an unusually high number of vehicles on the road during the recent days that had a mixture of fog and rain and lack of sunshine — without any headlines on!
     That is very dangerous!
     While I am on the subject of headlights, is it just me, or do some cars have almost blindingly-bright headlights — even when they only have their “dim” lights on?
     I’m not sure why headlights are permitted to be sold that are so bright. To me they create a danger on the road.

     • HATE CRIME? — According to by Zach Jewell in the Daily Wire, Michael Cassidy, a 35-year-old Navy veteran, was charged with a hate crime last week after he admitted to beheading a Satanic statue that was on display in the Iowa State Capitol building in December.
     “Cassidy, a Christian who lives in Mississippi and previously ran for a congressional seat, was arrested and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief after beheading the statue. Court documents now say that the damage done to the statue will cost between $750 and $1,500 to repair, and prosecutors allege that Cassidy acted ‘in violation of individual rights’ under Iowa’s hate crime statute, KCCI reported. The documents also note that in light of new evidence, his charge has been upped to third-degree criminal mischief, a class D felony.”
     Hmmmm.

     Remember when we lived in a time where Satan was blamed for evil acts and law breaking?

 

     • PARKING INSTRUCTION? I couldn’t help but shoot this photo a few days ago when I looked out my office window and saw how two cars had parked in the 100 block of South Water Street.
     The last time I checked, vehicles are suppose to park between the lines — not over them.
I’m not sure what the drivers thought those marks were that designated where cars should park.
     In all fairness, sometimes one driver (not pictured here) will park a car over the lines and it throws every other car off on that side of the street — and that may have happened in the photo above.
     Anyhooo, you would be surprised how many times I look out my office windows during a week’s time and see vehicles that are more than a little out of the parking spot markings.
It seems to me, these drivers should be angle parkers only. (Parallel smile here.)

     • APOLOGY — I was shocked and saddened when St. Teresa Teacher and Track Coach Amber Johnson’s car was struck in a street-racing collision as she was pulling her car out of the St. Teresa complex on the night of April 29, 2022.
     Amber was nearly killed in that collision but, with great cour-age and lots of support, continues to put her life and critically injured body back together.
     It has been a long road.
     I was touched last week when the driver of the car, Rashean D. Vorties, who was travelling over 100 miles per hour when he hit Amber’s car, was in a Macon County Courtroom and walked over and shook Amber’s hand and apologized for what he had done to her.
The touching part for me was when Amber Hooker (she was recently married) accepted his apology.
     Vorties, 29, had just been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of aggravated street racing.
     Amber’s courage in fighting to get her life back since that fateful night in front of St. Teresa has inspired us all, but her acceptance of the apology from the man whose recklessness caused her all of that pain and suffering, is the most inspiring of all.
     It is evident to me that Amber’s “heart” remains very strong!

     • I JOIN WSOY’s Brian Byers every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider half-hour of the program.
     That’s something we’ve been doing for over 20 years and there is never a shortage of any topics to discuss.

     • FOR a lot more stories, columns and features subscribe to the print or online edition (or both) of the Decatur Tribune newspaper.  You can order the Tribune elsewhere on this site.

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