News and Observations from Wapella, Illinois: Home of the Wildcats.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Espero Hombre, It's time for Birthday Wishes all around Central Illinois

At least three Central Illinois greats celebrated recently, MP Toohill, RA Powers both from Wapella, and EA Hackman from Danville chalked up another one this past week. Powers and Toohill celebrated with a ceremonial toast, some cartwheels, and a wheelbarrow of good cheer for at least three days this week, while Hackman reportedly was plotting a way to get an edge over fellow Danvillain Dick Van Dyke, 83! last month, and currently experiencing a Mary Poppins resurgence.

It's 78 for Eugene Hackman, 47 for Toohill, and 40 for Powers at least per my Pullen-Boos perpetual calendar. Here's a shot Popeye Doyle in French Connection, one of the best shows ever made till John Frankenheimer's French Connection 2 came out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Last Hotel, The Taylor Magill makes its stand

For my money (or I suppose I would rather it not be my money), the Taylor Magill Hotel is one of the great hotels of DeWitt County. From 1873 here is a bit of background

Magill House: This is an establishment of which the people of Clinton may well be proud, being one of the finest, largest, and best arranged hotels in Central Illinois. It was constructed by the Magill Brothers, at a cost of $35,000, the first work being done in 1871, and completed in 1872. It is a brick structure, three stories high, besides the basement, and covers half a block. The rooms are large and airy, being forty-five in number, besides three store rooms on the first floor. It is situated just north of the square, fronting on Center Street. The building was originally heated by hot air, the furnaces being situated in the basement. This mode of heating was soon abandoned on account of the expense being too great for the income of the house. The dining room, billiard room, and halls, are large and commodious. The basement is now utilized for a laundry. A. W. Razey is the present efficient landlord. There are two other hotels in the city, the Clinton House, currently inhabited by a gaggle of goons, and the City Hotel. Both are situated on Center Street, a little north of the Magill House.

The hotel is not in the greatest shape of its career, but the crafty veteran may have some life left in it. I think everyone in Hog City would like to see the billiard hall open up again.

There is probably some more news (commenters!) about the Magill House, but what a good time for some Friday afternoon rock and roll with a topical song by the Len Price 3, "The Last Hotel".

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

S-pray F-amily B-Days

Birthday wishes all around Wapella this week for two of the greats of the game.

Swede Spray's count is up to #74 yesterday, January 20.

George Spray is wearing #79 today Wednesday, Jan. 21.

Happy Birthday George and Swede!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 Mourns the Passing of Rose Mearida

Rosa Mae Mearida, 83, of Wapella died at 7:15 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 17, 2009) at BroMenn Regional Medical Center, Normal.Her memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton, with J. Kent Hickerson officiating. Interment will be in Memorial Park Cemetery, Clinton.Visitation will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.Memorials may be made to the Rosa Mae Mearida Memorial Fund.She was born Sept. 18, 1925, in Decatur, a daughter of William and Mary Blackard Lowery. She married Merle C. “Buddy” Mearida on June 28, 1941, in St. Louis. He passed away Feb. 6, 2006.She is survived by her children, Merle (Sharon) Mearida of Clinton, Ronald (Vicki) Mearida of Wapella, Nancy (Larry) Scott of Bloomington, and Barbara (Allen) Pence of Wapella; two sisters, Mary Cox of Clinton, and Janice Cox of Decatur; 12 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.She was preceded in death by her parents; one son, Billy Mearida; one brother; and three sisters.During Rosa’s courageous battle with cancer, she was lovingly cared for and comforted by Nancy and Ronnie, and the grandchildren who came to visit her.

Rose is remembered as a good neighbor, fine friend, and a great member of the Wapella community.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Odd Year Champions? 2009 Cardinals Storm to Super Bowl

Here's one from my pal Pat Hickey on the Football Cardinal Franchise. The Cardinals, one time renters of Comiskey Park hailed from the South Side of Chicago (home of Hickey, by the way) and practiced at Sherman Park, one of the grand landscapes on the wretched South Side.

Bidwill's Bonanza - Cardinals Carry Charley's South Side Dreams to the Top Floor!

Mario 'Motts' Tonelli Italian American Hall of Fame Member, Bataan Death March Survivor and Chicago Cardinal

The Cardinals are America's oldest Professional Football franchise -founded in 1898 and they are based in Glendale Arizona outside of Phoenix, but the root of Cardinal Mystique is the south side of Chicago. They began as the Morgan Athletic Club and played on Racine Avenue and were owned by Chicago painting contractor Chris O'Brien. In 1932, the Bidwill family bought the Cardinals. Charley 'Blue-Shirt Charley' Bidwill, a former VP for the Chicago Bears, worked to build a Chicago Powerhouse. He did just that by the end of World War II.

Elmer Angsman,Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Marshall Goldberg, and Charlie Trippi were members of the Million Dollar Backfield. They took down the Philadelphia Eagles in 1947. They were brought together by Charley Bidwill after World War II. In 1947 the Cardinals won the NFL Championship and in 1948 a Division Title for the south side football franchise that began as the O'Brien Cardinals playing at what is now Morgan Park Academy in the 1920's. Charley Bidwill died in April of 1947, before his Dream Team coached by the great Jimmy Conzelman could realize their potential.

Charley's sons Charley and Bill took command. The Cardinals moved to St. Louis and eventually to Phoenix. The Bidwill Family retain their ties to Chicago and are powerful but quiet participants in all Chicago Philanthropic initiatives. Stormy Bidwill runs Sportmans Park racing track and helps poor kids at Leo High School get an education.

The Bidwill Family always seemed to take the high road. When Notre Dame running great Mario 'Motts' Toneli* returned to Chicago from the Japanese Death Camps from Bataan to Japan after being captured in the siege of Bataan, Charley Bidwill, though putting together a Million Dollar backfield, signed the skeletal Tonelli and had him carry the ball against the Green Bay Packers:

Slightly more than one in every three men captured on Bataan returned home. But few did so to recognition of their peculiar ordeal. In the flush of V-J Day, Americans yearned for their antebellum status quo. In just such a spirit Cardinals owner Charley Bidwill** asked Tonelli, home not even a month, to rejoin the team. It was a publicity stunt, but one in which all parties eagerly conspired. War hero Tonelli, The Chicago Sun declared, had been "nursed back to full strength and health." Tonelli played along. "My weight is back up to 183 pounds," he told the papers, though he weighed more like 140. He still had malaria. Since that day his wife, Mary, and his parents had met him at Chicago's Union Station, doctors had twice cut him open to treat his intestines.

Bidwill's gesture was well-intentioned, but football doesn't run on sentiment. Three days after signing in front of the cameras, Tonelli carried twice against the Packers in Green Bay, each time for no gain, and so ended his NFL career. The next morning's Chicago Tribune carried both news of the Cardinals' 33-14 loss and the headline WAR VETERANS RETURN AND GO HOUSE HUNTING.
Click my post title for Toneli's heroic saga.

The Football Chicago Cardinals remain the south side team, along with Charlie Comiskey's White Sox and our Holy Mother's Notre Dame, due to the Bidwill Family. Their franchise might be in Arizona, Missouri, or Lower Slobovia, but so long as they are running the show, the Cardinals are the south side's team.

*Star fullback for Notre Dame who survived the Bataan Death March during WWII. He was best known for a 77-yard run that helped Notre Dame beat the University of Southern California. At the beginning of the death march, a Japanese guard ordered him to remove his Notre Dame graduation ring only to have the ring returned moments later by a Japanese officer who said in perfect English that he had attended the USC game and watched the famous run. He spent 42 months as a POW and saw his weight drop from 212 pounds to only 92 pounds. He is a member of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

One man Tonelli holds dear to him is Charles Bidwill, the owner of the Chicago Cardinals. Bidwill came to Motts in the hospital after the war and said, "Motts, before you left the Cardinals, you still had a three-year contract. We expect you to honor it." By renewing the contract, he provided Motts with a wonderful opportunity because, under the rules of the NFL, you had to play both before and after the war to get credit for your pension. They both knew it was nearly impossible for Motts to play again but he was determined to do his best. On one Sunday in October of 1945, after a few practices with his coach, Motts earned his pension. Mario "Motts" Tonelli has become a hero on both the battle field and football field.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's Cold in Wapella, Saskatchewan but it's colder in Wapella, Illinois

The Team at occasionally gets a misdirected email headed for Canada to our sister village, mighty Wapella, Saskatchewan (population 354) it is no matter to check on the weather in the Great White North, today humming in at 15F topping Hog City by 8 degrees, with homebase at a whopping 7 today headed to -15 tonight.

It is not often that we in Wapella are colder than a Canadian, so a tribute to our friends here is a note from the Wapella Jubilee, a Canadian Pacific passenger train, pictured here in watercolor, with a bit of history

"In the summer of 1955, ten passenger trains passed through Wapella during a week day, five trains in either direction, but
only three, in each direction would stop.

02:29 eastbound No 18 carrying express and mail (old No 2).
03:00 westbound No 1 “The Canadian”, no stop
03:51 westbound No 17 carrying express and mail (old No 1).
06:55 eastbound No 2 “The Canadian”, no stop
08:32 eastbound No 54 The Broadview-Brandon “Local”, daily except Sunday
12:35 eastbound No 6 (known locally as “The Advanced Dominion”), no stop
13:18 eastbound No 8 “The Dominion” stops to detrain from Regina and west and entrain for Winnipeg and east
15:00 westbound No 5 (known locally as “The Advanced Dominion”), no stop
15:52 westbound No 7 “The Dominion” stops to entrain revenue passengers for Regina and west and to detrain
revenue passengers from Winnipeg and east
19:34 westbound No 53 The Brandon-Broadview “Local”, daily except Sunday"

Keep the train rolling with Roy Acuff and Bashful Brother Oswald on the Dobro doing "Wabash Cannon Ball" on the Porter Wagoner Show.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 Mourns the Passing of Fr. Robert Creager

This belatedly to via Ottawa, IL...

Reverend Robert Joseph Creager, 80, of Ottawa passed away Saturday October 25, 2008 at Ottawa Pavilion.

Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11:00 am Thursday October 30, 2008 at St. Patrick's Church in Ottawa with Most Reverend Daniel Jenky, Bishop of Peoria officiating and Homilist Reverend Philip D. Halfacre, Pastor of St. Patrick's Church. Burial will be in St. Columba Cemetery, Ottawa. Visitation will be Wednesday October 29, 2008 from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. at St. Patrick's Church in Ottawa with the Rosary at 7:30 pm and the Knights of Columbus in attendance.

He was born on April 28, 1928 in Hartsburg, Illinois to Harry E. and E. Corrine (Leach) Creager. He was raised by his foster parents Leland and Catherine Rapier.

He was ordained on June 6, 1954 at Saint Mary Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois by Most Reverend William Cousin, Bishop of Peoria. Fr. Creager was the Parish Priest in Wapella at St. Patrick's for much of the 1970's and early 1980's. Fr. Creager was an avid sports fan and very much enjoyed watching the Chicago Bears, as well as hunting and fishing. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Fr. Creager will be remembered by St. Patrick's Parish and all of Wapella.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Technical Note

Had a web posting problem over the past weekend, which is fixed now. If you type in

your browser will take you to the blog.

or click here

or just bookmark

or just do as I do, and search for "George Jones", "Ray Burris", and EEP on the same web page, and you will see is the only site covering all three in extensive detail.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

RIP Jon Hager

Jon Hager, of the Hager Twins Country Act has died at age 67. The Hager Twins, well documented by, were a comedy staple for many years with their unique looks and multiple talents

Jon Hager, right, with his brother, Jim, left, and Roy Clark in 2007. The Hager Twins were in the original cast of “Hee Haw.”

He apparently died in his sleep, said Sam Lovullo, who produced “Hee Haw” and was a friend of Mr. Hager. He had been in poor health and was depressed since Jim, his identical twin, died in May, Mr. Lovullo said.

The twins were in the original cast of the show, which made its debut in 1969 satirizing country life with a mixture of music and comedy. Both were guitarists and drummers.

The Hagers had worked with the country star Buck Owens and joined “Hee Haw” when Owens signed as the show’s co-host with Roy Clark.

Mr. Lovullo said they were originally hired for their musical talent, but as the show went on they incorporated more comedy into their act.

“They had a fun personality,” Mr. Lovullo said. “They were also the answer to the Hee Haw Honeys. We were always looking for the other side of the gender — for good-looking hunks. They fit the bill very nicely.”

The Hagers left the program in the mid-1980s and continued to perform together.

The twins were born in the Chicago area and lived in Los Angeles before “Hee Haw.” They said in 1998 that they had been together all their lives except for three and a half years, after Jon left Los Angeles and moved to Nashville. Jim remained on the West Coast but eventually followed.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Belated Happy Birthday to The EEP

Charter member of the Wapella Board of Historians and an editor of, Mr. EEP is celebrating his 35th birthday a day late if he waits for it to be announced here.

Congrats EEP, a cup of Zima for you.

HT to one of Wapella's finest; Jimmy Murphy for this catch...
Uh... Don't you mean Happy 36th Birthday. 1973 right?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sellers in Classic Olivier Spoof

I have yet to come to terms if Peter Sellers lunacy was actually funny or clinical. This bit tips in Sellers favor, but certainly is an inspiration to lunatics to ham it up.

Monday, January 5, 2009

No Matter How Hard We Try, Cannot Stay out of Politics

Governor Blagojevich is certainly a controversial politcian, full of hijinks and michief, but we at are not sure how a sensible person can judge his latest move. Sure Ray Burris was decent pitcher, and at 6ft 5in, a towering Cub in his day.

Is that enough to qualify him as Senator? Some so no, but is going on record as supporting Ray Burris for Senate. His lifetime 4.17 ERA was not to shabby, his 15-10 record in 1975 for a medicore Cubs team was solid (and better than Steve Stone's 12-8 record). So how about it Hog City? Will Wapella support Betram "Ray" Burris for Senate?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thumbs Down from Local Sportswriters for Redbirds and Illini

Here is a list of who votes in the AP top 25 poll


Paul Klee
The News-Gazette

Bill Liesse
Peoria Journal-Star

Lindsey Willhite
The Daily Herald

Either I am missing something, or only Willhite from the Daily Herald included the Illini in the top 25, with no Illinois writer including the undefeated Redbirds. What gives with our home state papers? No support for two of the best teams in the country?

Tribue Skips Out of Redbird Reality

Am I missing something in this Tribune story? OK, ISU is undefeated, and would like to go all season like that, but ISU is also unranked and the Trib skips that fact.

My conspiracy theory has it that the Tribune sportswriters get to vote on the AP top 25, but the Redbirds still aren't ranked may be part of the reason. So John about casting a vote for an undefeated semi-local team rather than ignoring the obvious?

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