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

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Grand Hotel for the Summer

The Grand Hotel on Emerson in Bloomington was sort of a house, sort of a restuarant, and hardly anything like a hotel. There was nothing quite like it in Illinois (though Wisconsin is blanketed with this type of place). Pretty good chicken, relish plates, massive and toxic mixed drinks, worn out furnishings, dangerous parking lot...the Grand Hotel had it all.

The Grand Hotel also served as some kind of circus refuge, a hot topic of discussion among Wildcats recently, many of who have fond memories of carnival and circus life.

Here is a 1999 documentary from WILL-TV, which scratches the surface of the Circus in Bloomington.

Prairie Fire looks at Bloomington-Normal’s history as a winter training center for circus trapeze acts. Never-before-televised footage of the aerialists practicing and performing, obtained from rare personal collections and the circus collection at Illinois State University, brings the Prairie Fire story to life.

From the late 1800s to the 1960s, dozens of world-class circus aerialists trained in Bloomington-Normal during the off season. “It started out when several boys from the area ran off to join the circus,” said WILL-TV’s Ange Albsmeyer, producer of the story. In the winter, they’d come back to Illinois and train in ice houses, tying their trapezes to rafters and falling into sawdust on the floor beneath.
After a new YMCA was built in 1907, an increasing number of aerialists began practicing there. In return for being allowed to use the space, the trapeze artists would put on a circus each year in the facility and give the proceeds to the YMCA, said Steve Gossard, curator of ISU Circus Collections, who provided 8 millimeter film of the aerialists.

The story includes shots of Antoinette Concello, one of the first women to perfect the triple somersault, and her husband, Art, another key figure among aerialists. Others training in Bloomington-Normal included the Flying Wards. The Grand Hotel Restaurant now occupies the space where some of the Ward troupe once lived. A barn on Grove Street in Normal where the Flying Valentinos trained is also still standing.
The Flying Valentinos’ Cherie Valentine still lives in Bloomington and in an interview, gives a fascinating description of circus life. She became part of her family’s act at the age of 3 after her father had a heart attack.

“Sometimes circus performers are seen as just entertainers, but in reality, they were professionals who worked hard at exhausting and dangerous jobs. They were extremely proud of their craft,” said Albsmeyer.
Bloomington-Normal’s ties to the circus continue with ISU’s Gamma Phi Circus, one of the largest collegiate circuses in the country.

Can one of our readers tell us, how do you contact a carnival to perform at the Cornbread and Bean Festival? How do you get the carnies to go away after the carnival is over?

I'll fix that video later, but here is the link to WILL Channel 12.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 Mourns the Passing of LeRoy Haynes

LeRoy Madison Haynes Jr., 87, LeRoy, died Friday (July 24, 2009) at home.

A graveside service and burial will be in Mausoleum Park Cemetery, Clinton, on Wednesday. At his request, he will be laid to rest in simple fashion and in joyful celebration for anticipated union with his Savior on judgment day.

Services are graciously being provided by Dave Pimm, owner, Veterans Burial and Cremation Service, Chicago. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to LeRoy Christian Church or St. Jude Children's Research Hospital at the family's request.

LeRoy was born Nov. 13, 1921, in Covington, La., the son of LeRoy M. Haynes Sr. and Annie Cecile Smith Haynes. He married Esther Mae Evans Pierce on Nov. 28, 1955 in Monahans, Texas.

To this union were added Thurman Clark Pierce, Martha Lynn Pierce and Roy Garland Haynes. After Esther's death, he married Martha Luella Sirens (Roy) Bleavins on Feb. 21, 1982, in LeRoy, and loved her children as his own.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Virginia Darniele; a brother, Ralph Haynes; his son, Thurman "Corky" Pierce; and both Esther Pierce and Martha Bleavins.

After serving in the U.S. Army, LeRoy graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1950. He retired from Texaco City Service Pipeline Co. He spent much of his early life in Louisiana and Texas, then Oklahoma; following the pipeline industry, he moved with his family to Illinois in 1971.

He was an avid reader and gardener, but most earnestly sought out the teachings of Christ as a fundamental Christian. His strong and ever-supportive companion in this endeavor was his beloved wife, Martha. He was an active member of the LeRoy Christian Church and for his church's love and support, eternally grateful.

He loved music and was a solo vocalist for his church and the community for many years.

LeRoy is survived by his a sister, Dorothy (William) Chmylak; his brothers Sidney and Robert Haynes; his daughter, Martha L. Haynes Bruton, San Angelo, Texas; son, R. Garland Haynes WHS '79, Valparaiso, Ind.; grandsons, Tyler P. Haynes and Bryce M. Haynes, Heyworth; and granddaughter, Tara L. Bruton, San Angelo, Texas.

He was also blessed and is survived by a wonderful extended family, including Clara L. Toohill WHS '79 Gresham, his former daughter-in-law; and stepchildren, Raymond (Caroline) Bleavins, Marietta (John) Ashworth, Karen VanNote and Diane (Pat) Pratt, and many wonderful stepgrandchildren and great-grandchildren, including one very special great-granddaughter, Kelly Davis.

LeRoy Haynes lived on 4th Street in Wapella for many years, where he was known for his kind hospitality, gentlemanly candor and support of community. All flag 1/2 mast please for US Army Veteran LeRoy Haynes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Voted Most Like a Wapella Native: Earl Weaver

After a thorough going over of Sports Illustrated's profile of Earl Weaver, the former Orioles skipper the Wapella Board of Historians voted Weaver the pro-sport manager most like a Wapella native. Profane, belligerent, crafty as a badger, and the winningest manager in baseball history, Weaver had it all. Weaver said in 1986, "On my tombstone just write, THE SOREST LOSER THAT EVER LIVED."

A few choice bits:

Weaver: [To his team at a closed-door meeting] You guys don't want to win bad enough! I never failed to get a guy in from third base with less than two outs!

Pitcher Dave McNally: Yeah, and you never played higher than Double A.

Weaver: And another thing, if you don't make the last out of the game, you never lose! I never made the last out.

[Pitcher Jim Palmer raises his hand.]

Weaver: What?

Palmer: We all know why you never made the last out, Earl.

Weaver: Why?

Palmer: Because they always pinch-hit for you.

Weaver: Aw, you ruined the mood, Palmer!


George Steinbrenner: Earl, what would you do if you're sitting in the hotel lobby at two in the morning and you see your ballplayers walking in?

Weaver: Well, is it a night game or a day game?

Steinbrenner: We played a night game.

Weaver: Two o'clock ain't that bad, George. You got a day game tomorrow? What do you got tomorrow?

Steinbrenner: We're playing an exhibition game in Columbus, Ohio.

Weaver: You've got to let them do something once in a while.

Steinbrenner: Would you come manage?

Weaver won the pennant one year by making only 167 pitching changes in 159 games. Another year he used only 12 pitchers in the entire season. The guy is truly an amazing mind and wordsmith as well.

Here's Earl as vulgar as he can be on video. Full warning Earl is really lit up.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Diamonds from Farmer City: Don and Mary Olson

From the Catholic Post

FARMER CITY — When Don Olson drove Mary Brown home on the rainy night they met as teenagers 77 years ago, his car got stuck in mud on the long lane leading to her parents’ farm house in rural Weldon.

“We walked the rest of the way,” recalls Don.

“Mom was still up,” said Mary, continuing the opening chapter of a remarkable love story.

“She was baking bread — oh, it smelled so good,” continued Mary, still enjoying its aroma eight decades later.

New love was also in the air that night.

Don would leave his car in the mud, walking all the way back to his parents’ home in town.

But he and Mary, now both 93, have been stuck on each other ever since.

On July 31, the couple will mark their 75th wedding anniversary, recalling the hot summer day in 1934 when they were married in the former St. Michael’s Church in Weldon.

The church has long since closed. There are no photographs from the occasion. Weddings were a lot simpler then, said Mary, noting the couple had to arrange to pick up the pastor, Father Flynn, from nearby Wapella.

What the wedding lacked in frills modern brides and grooms have come to expect, it more than made up in effectiveness. The Olsons are among the longest married couples in the Diocese of Peoria.

The Olsons still reside in the tidy, white ranch Farmer City home to which they retired 30 years ago after a career in farming and the raising of their two sons, Gene and Lawrence (Shorty!). A house blessing done as a welcome by Msgr. C. B. Motsett, former pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Farmer City, was apparently as powerful as the marriage blessing administered by Father Flynn.

Editor’s note — Readers wishing to send a note of congratulations to the Olsons may write to them at 512 E. Water St., Farmer City, 61842.

Congrats to Don and Mary and all the Olson family! Can anyone from the Olson family insert Cecil Brown into the above story?

Is St. Michaels still standing?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hazard of Satellite Radio

If you don't have Satellite Radio take this as a word of warning, it can wear you out with the Outlaw Country, 70's Pop, and hundreds of other format choices. One can get a song in one's noggin and not shake it for a week or two. On the other hand, one might find himself shaking it for no apparent reason other than the song in one's head.

Such is the case with "Feeling Single, Seeing Double" by Emmylou Harris, today's Friday Pick. If you're like me, and who isn't these days, you would have dismissed Emmylou as some kind of resentful hippy version of Dolly Parton, without Dolly's broad humor and career success. Like me, you would be wrong, because Emmylou can let it rip with the best of them, in this case, surpassing all but the best of Dolly Parton's carrer. Here's Birmingham's own Emmylou Harris with her version of "Feeling Single, Seeing Double".

Good song, scratchy video, and for 2 points, who had the original hit with "Feeling Single, Seeing Double"? Three-pointer if you know what was the follow up to this song from Gary Stewart.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alert Reader Notices Farmer City Memorabilia

One of the top benefits of managing the massive correspondance for is the chance email from alert readers bringing news items into the Hog City Orbit.

Here's one from a Waukegan Bulldog (or possibly a Waukegan West Raider Update! - although a Waukegan native, the tipster is a Carmel Corsair - Carmel High School in Mundelein, now named Carmel Catholic High School) who noted a Farmer City basketball uniform on a Hallmark Humor page. The reader, a Wapella enthusiast with a knack for finding Central Illinois in the darndest places, let rip this bit of ribald humor

It’s your birthday!
Do something that
makes you happy.
Take Bill, for example.
He enjoyed holding
both balls
Happy Birthday!

and the laughs ensued, Hallmark Style.

The kicker is, our contributor has visited Wapella not once, but twice, and offered a challenge to our readers. Has anyone else from Waukegan been a repeat visitor to Wapella? Mourns the Passing of Virgil Gibson

Virgil W. Gibson entered his eternal home on Friday morning (July 10, 2009) peacefully with his family by his side. It was one week prior to his 91st birthday.

Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton with J. Kent Hickerson officiating. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery, Clinton with military rites at the gravesite. Friends may call Monday evening from 5 to 7 p.m. at Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton.

Virgil was born in 1918 in Spencer, Iowa. His mother passed away when he was six months old, and his family moved back to Clinton a year later. On Sept. 12, 1941, he married Anita Ives. They had 67 wonderful years together.

Virgil served in the U.S. Army in seven different countries during World War II. Later, the couple founded Gibson Ace Hardware, first in Wapella and then in Clinton.

In addition to experiencing success in his business, Virgil was known for his community service. He served as Chairman of the Wapella Cornbread and Bean Festival and the Wapella Centennial Celebration. As a 60-year member of the Wapella Christian Church, he served as an elder for 30 years and also as chairman and treasurer.

Later, Virgil was one of three original members of the planning committee for the DeWitt County Museum and volunteered at the Apple and Pork Festival for 39 years. He served two terms on the Board of Directors of the Clinton Country Club and was the chairman of the Clinton Retail Merchants' Association.

He was president and a board member of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce and Vice-Chairman of the DeWitt County United Way. He was a member of the DeWitt Masonic Lodge 84 A.F. & A.M., the American Legion, Elks Lodge and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He organized the Clinton Christmas parades and was honored to serve as Grand Marshall in 1985. In 1996, Virgil received the Outstanding Service Award from the Clinton Chamber of Commerce.

After his retirement, Virgil and Anita spent their winters in Florida but his volunteering spirit did not retire. He served as a Board Member of the Hickory Harbour Condo Association and as a volunteer at the Lions Club in Bonita Springs, Florida.

Virgil was richly blessed by the Lord with excellent health throughout his long life, showing his first decline just three years ago.

Virgil is survived by his wife, Anita, two daughters (both WHS alums), Jane Nichols of Denver, Colo., and Candi (John) Heap of Clinton. They have three granddaughters, Amy (Scott) Ruter of Parker, Colo., Paula (Brad) Barton of Tolono and Julia Heap of Chicago. He also has three great-granddaughters, Payton and Addison Ruter and Kylie Barton and one sister, Olive Moberly of Clinton. He also leaves behind many other treasured family and friends.

Those who wish may direct memorial contributions to the Wapella Christian Church, Little Galilee Christian Assembly, Clinton Y.M.C.A. or to the Clinton Elks' Scholarship Fund.

All flags half mast please for U.S. Army veteran Virgil Gibson.

Thursday, July 9, 2009 Mourns the Passing of Trenda Goodman

Trenda Lynn Goodman, 34, Clinton, died at 11:05 a.m. Saturday (July 4, 2009) at her family residence in Clinton.

Her funeral will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton, with the Rev. Jeff DeLaughter officiating. Visitation will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday at the funeral home. Memorials may be made to the Trenda Lynn Goodman Memorial Fund.

She was born Dec. 10, 1974, in Rushville, daughter of Tracy and Mary Elliott Warden. She married Tim Goodman on March 25, 1994, in Bloomington.

She is survived by her husband, Tim Goodman, WHS 1993, Clinton; mother and stepfather, Mary and William Fogle, Clinton; two children, Rance Goodman and Satin Goodman, both of Clinton; paternal grandmother, Lois K. Berry, Springfield; one brother, Tracy Warden Jr., Clinton; and father-in-law, Rance Cooper, Cave City, Ky.

She was preceded in death by her grandmother, Violet Elliott, and mother-in-law, Carolyn Cooper.

On July 16, Tim and Trenda would have celebrated 18 years together.

Our condolences to the Goodman and Cooper families.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 Mourns the Passing of Theresa Mearida

Theresa Mearida, 93, Wapella, died at 4:15 p.m. Monday (July 6, 2009) at her family residence in Wapella. Her graveside service will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Long Point Cemetery, Wapella, with Kurt Flora officiating. There will be no visitation. Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton, is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be made to the Wapella Park District.

She was married to Carl Mearida, and the mother of James and Eddie Mearida. Theresa Mearida was one of the Matriarchs of Wapella and will be sadly missed by her many friends and family.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Attention All Wildcats of Any Stripe

The Wapella Wildcats are headed to Heyworth in what promises to be a barnburner of a WHS Reunion. Saturday September 5, 2009 at the high respectable American Legion Hall in Heyworth Illinois a convocation like no other will be held.

Starts at 5PM
Ends at ??? (always a big draw)

Appetizers, Tea and Lemonade will be provided.

There will be drinking, dancing and fighting, so come prepared for at least 2 out of the 3.

If you click on the picture you will get a larger image. Or just click here.

You should then be able to print out a full color flyer to be strategically placed at all 9 Wapella businesses. How about the Churches as well?

Here are some contacts, representing some of the biggest names in WHS Alumni today.

Class of 1969
Chris Thorp - (217) 781-2829 email -
Class of 1970
Steve Schmid - (309) 824-4156 email -
Class of 1971
Judy (Schmid) Mowery - (309) 473-2078 email -
Class of 1972
Mike Colliver - (309) 473-2229 email -
Class of 1973
Patty (Ritter) Rich - (309) 838-5005
Class of 1974
Jackie (Sapp) Palmer - (309) 378-2524
Class of 1975
Tammy (Colliver) Doner - (309) 473-3606 email -
Linda (Reynolds) Whitaker - (309) 821-9631 email -
Class of 1976
Cindy (Shoemaker) White - (217) 949-4981 email -
Nancy (Duncan) Witten - (309) 261-0054 email -
Class of 1977
Karen (Ledbetter) Underwood - (217) 935-3005
email -
Cheryl Reynolds - (217) 935-5469 email -
Class of 1978
Etta (Duncan) Whitted - (217) 935-9161 email -
Class of 1979
Brenda (Colliver) Underwood - (309) 473-2190
email -
Elizabeth (Holland) Lord - (217) 935-8756 email -

All are welcome. Note to Brenda and EEP are you looking for contacts for 1980+? I think our loyal readers can provide.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Play Freebird! Did a Heckle Actually Originate in Wapella?

The Chicago Tribune has a long-winded and typically screechy article dissecting Lynyrd Skynyrd's rock anthem "Freebird" with particular attention to the yell "Play Freebird" and its use at concerts to distract the performers.

I'll give the Trib a C+ for at least starting the conversation, but the thought that "Sometime in the late '80s" a talk radio caller originated the practice of yelling "Freebird" as an absurd request at a musical concert (Florence Henderson, in the caller case) is about 10 years too late.

Lynyrd Skynyrd made quite a bit of their act as a rebel band, playing country-rock with a hard edge while the Eagles were drifting away and Neil Young was at his most grating. Skynyrd were no slaves to fashion, and stuck with their act till many of the band were killed in a tragic plane wreck in 1977.

By all memory Skynyrd was a band of great cheer and loved to boogie, and could joyfully take a joke and dish another one out. So when some of their legion of fans in Hog City would shout "Play Freebird" (generally led by Tom Mollett during halftime performances at away basketball games) there was both a enjoyment of Skynyrd and a good natured desire to throw the performers off their game. A taunt? Sure, but one that only made sense if you were a Lynyrd Skynrd aficionado to begin with (and I'll take odd that the stage band at Deland Weldon etc were all Skynyrd fans). Did it do any good? Nah, just tormented the band for a bit, till the athletic roster had to get back on the basketball court doing their double duties, but still lit it up a bit on an otherwise quiet road trip.

A quote from an overwrought performer (Patterson Hood, leader of the otherwise pretty good Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers) in the Trib "To be truthful, it didn't even occur to me there might be irony in 'Freebird' until I moved from my small town to a city."

What? Do you really think that people in small towns don't develop a quirk here and there to keep the comedy going when things get slow? Then you must never have played in the Kickapoo conference when the Wapella Wildcats were in town.

Here Lynyrd Skynyrd (pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd) doing what they did best. Play Freebird.

Friday, July 3, 2009

John Warner Closes After 142 Years, then Opens the Next Day

It's business as usual, with its ups and downs in DeWitt County. The venerable John Warner Bank of Clinton, Illinois has closed after 142 years of continuous operations. Though the Warner family sold the bank a few years ago, John Warner and the Warner family were pioneers in Central Illinois and set the standard for high quality financial service during their tenure.

Here's the Pantagraph:
John Warner Bank, a fixture of downtown Clinton since 1867, was closed by state regulators Thursday in what apparently was the first area bank failure in this recession.

Acting as receiver for the bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation arranged for State Bank of Lincoln to assume bank deposits. Warner facilities will reopen today as branches of the Lincoln bank.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Division of Banking, closed the bank, but deposits still are insured, an FDIC statement said.

Drive-up customers pulling up after the regulators moved in reacted positively to the news, FDIC spokeswoman Roberta Valdez said.

"We told them no one lost any money, and it's business as usual," Valdez said.

Customers should notice no change in the transfer because checks, ATM cards and online banking services will remain the same, said Steve Aughenbaugh, State Bank of Lincoln president, in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon.

Warner was among six Illinois banks, all controlled by one family, taken over by the FDIC on Thursday.

The founding Warner family of Clinton sold the bank in 2003.

The closings bring to 12 the number of Illinois banks closed this year.

As of April 30, Warner had total assets of $70 million and total deposits of approximately $64 million.

In addition to assuming all the Warner deposits, the Lincoln bank agreed to buy about $63 million of assets. The FDIC will retain the remaining assets for later disposition.

The cost of the bank failure to the FDIC's insurance fund is estimated to be about $10 million.

An FDIC team and a state regulator went into Warner at closing time at 3 p.m. Thursday to initiate the transition, Valdez said.

"Obviously, it was a shock, a trauma" to employees, she said.

Forty people from the FDIC's Dallas office will work through the weekend with bank employees to complete the transition, including balancing all accounts and inventorying all loans, Valdez said.

"They've jumped right in - they're troupers," she said the bank's 26 full- and part-time employees.

The Clinton bank was going to be closed today for the holiday, but the Lincoln bank decided to open the Clinton bank facilities after all, said Valdez.

Not to make this blog useful whatsoever, but any ideas on why the JWB failed? DeWitt County has seen this type of economy before, took a swing at a long ball, spit on the ground, and went on with things. Why the quick trip to the showers this time?

Thursday, July 2, 2009 Mourns the Passing of James Leggett

James Duane Leggett Sr., 67, Jefferson City, Mo., formerly of Clinton, died at 3:30 a.m. Sunday (June 28, 2009) at St. Mary's Medical Center, Jefferson City, Mo.

His memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton, with J. Kent Hickerson officiating.

Burial will be in Sugar Grove Cemetery, Wapella. Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday at the funeral home.

He was born Nov. 8, 1941, in Clinton, son of James Forbes and Melba Amelia Wright Leggett. He married Janice Kay Gehrt on Aug. 23, 1971, in Bloomington.

He is survived by his wife, Janice Kay Leggett, Jefferson City, Mo.; one son, James Leggett Jr., Jefferson City, Mo.; two uncles, Clyde Orin Leggett, Jr., Wapella, and Boyd Leggett, Bloomington; two special aunts, Anne Martin, Tucson, Ariz., and Joyce Leggett, Joliet; and several cousins, including many from the Wapella area.

James was preceded in death by his parents.

Mr. Leggett worked for Qualxserv as a computer technician.

All flags 1/2 mast please ofr USAF Veteran James Leggett.

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