Bumper Stickers, Pins, Yard Signs And Notes
• MAYBE I’VE missed them, but advertising material that I have not seen during this year’s campaign is the bumper sticker.
Remember when political bumper stickers once adorned the bumpers of a lot of vehicles proudly proclaiming “Vote For John Jones” or some such candidate?
I think I still have a few bumper stickers somewhere from my campaigns years ago and it always made me feel good to be driving in traffic and a vehicle with a bumper sticker, advertising my candidacy, was in front of me.
I always hoped that I wouldn’t see a car with my bumper sticker pulled over by the police because the driver was speeding, driving under the influence, or had just robbed a bank!
Fortunately that didn’t happen -- as far as I know.
Maybe I don’t see political bumper stickers today because they usually left some hard-to-remove adhesive on the bumper when they were removed after an election.
Or, maybe, considering how cheap bumpers appear to be made these days, there could be a fear that ripping off the bumper sticker might also result in the bumper coming off with it!
• I’VE ALSO noticed that not as many political yard signs are used today as were used a decade or more ago.
I’ve seen several the past week but not as many as in previous elections -- especially when considering the number of contested offices in this election.
If I remember correctly, the city council finally had to pass an ordnance to limit the number of signs in a yard because there were so many groupings.
I don’t know if that’s still in effect, but the number of yard signs is down from earlier years -- at least from my observation.
I remember how hard those signs were to put in the ground in January and February when the ground was frozen.
Bobby Mann, known as the sign man, put a lot of my signs in a lot of places and he did it during a time when his health wasn’t the best and he probably had no business being out in such bad weather. I’ll never forget his effort on my behalf.
One of my sons, Kyle, and I also spent some time putting yard signs around town.
His dog, Max, posed with one of my yard signs, so I probably got the “canine vote” in that election.
• I THINK the reduction of so many yard signs may have happened when City Councilman Pat Laegeler ran for re-election one year and chose to have 3 or 4 billboards instead of yard signs.
He won the election.
There may be some billboards around town touting candidates, but I have not seen them.
• TECHNOLOGY has changed a lot since my campaigns and there are a lot more ways to advertise than political signs, bumper stickers or some other traditional means.
I used all means of advertising when I ran for office: television, radio, newspapers (both the Decatur Tribune and Herald & Review), campaign pins, rolls of stickers, bumper stickers, billboards, banners, normal size and huge yard signs and everything else.
Every once-in-a-while I run across one of those items (except a billboard) when I’m looking for something, or a reader will find one of the items when they are cleaning out something and send it to me.
Usually, campaign materials will be around somewhere for the rest of a candidate’s life. That can be good or bad,
For me, it’s good because I’m reminded of the great people who helped me win.
• HANDWRITTEN notes -- I certainly don’t expect to receive a handwritten thank you card when I interview those running for office, or any other interview I do.
However, it’s always a nice touch when I receive one.
Thanks to Randy Keith, April Kostenski and Samantha Murray for taking the time to send me a handwritten “thank you” card for talking with them about their races.
• I THINK ANYONE who steps forward and runs for public office because they want to make our lives better -- win or lose -- is already a winner in my book.
I have a lot of respect for them and the effort they put forth to win
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It’s Legal, But Super PACs Are Changing District Races Campaign
THE AREA political race that is drawing the most attention in the Decatur area, is the Republican Primary for the 101st District.
Dan Caulkins, Todd Henricks and Randy Keith are battling it out to win the Republican Primary on March 20th.
The winner will face Democrat Jen McMillin, who has no opponent in that party’s primary, so she is already the winner of her primary.
I’VE MET and talked with Caulkins, Hendricks and Keith since their campaigns started and next week, I’ll have some observations on that race, and the other contested primary races impacting on Decatur and Macon County -- including Macon County Sheriff, Macon County Clerk and Macon County Treasurer.
HOWEVER, for this column I want to express my concern about the huge amount of “PAC” money from Chcago that is pouring into the Republican Primary race.
It’s not illegal, but it does tend to cloud the issues and the qualities we like to examine before casting our votes.
As indicated in the City Beat column, over $200,000 from Liberty Principles, 505 North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, have been spent to promote the candidacy of Dan Caulkins.
THE AMOUNT that the Liberty Principles PAC has given to benefit Caulkins is more than the total that all three candidates have collected on their own -- and the PAC is still running radio and television commercials as I’m writing this column.
The PAC picks a candidate through an interview process and then loads up that campaign with money -- staying on the legal side by not allowing the candidate much, if any, say over the PAC’s advertising of his or her candidacy.
I DON’T like for any group, especially from Chicago, whether liberal or conservative, to spend gobs of money in a district race -- and make this a “money battle” instead of an issue race.
Liberty Principles PAC had about $3 million to spend at the beginning of this election cycle and they still have a lot of the money left, despite injecting the PAC into several races through loading them up with expensive media advertising.
ACCORDING to the purpose statement of Liberty Principles PAC, it exists “To make independent expenditures in support of liberty-oriented policies and candidates.”
The PAC, along with others, avoids any limits on campaign contributions by not consulting with a candidate they support about his or her commercials, mailers and other media purchases. When that advertising is broadcast, or comes to your home in a mailer, what is presented is what the PAC wants presented.
In the case of Liberty Principles, it’s their money and they run the show when it comes to the advertising they run.
RANDY Keith also received a contribution from a Chicago PAC.
The Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor Management PAC contributed $25,000 to his campaign, which probably would have drawn some criticism if Caulkins’ $200,000+ contribution from Liberty Principles PAC had not been so overwhelmingly large for a primary campaign in the 101st District.
Most people I talk with don’t view the $25,000 received by Keith, in the same perspective as the $200,000+ in media advertising received by Caulkins.
AS mentioned at the beginning of this column what I’ve written should not be interpreted as picking one candidate over another in the 101st District Republican Primary.
I’ll express my thoughts about the candidates and this race next week.
This column is about the outrageous, unlimited amounts of money that some PACS are allowed to spend on getting someone elected.
I LIVE in the 101st District, so the person who will eventually be elected in November, is of extra special importance to me.
It hasn’t been that long ago that tougher campaign contribution laws were enacted to eliminate the huge amounts of money that were being poured into Illinois races to control outcomes.
Obviously, Super PACs have found a way to legally side-step the more stringent regulations and the financial flood gates are again wide open.
CAMPAIGN contribution reform is again needed to bring tighter controls on the massive amounts of “outside” money being “invested” in candidates in several districts in Illinois.
It’s time for citizens to demand that campaigns and elections be about the people who live and work in each district and not about Super PACS and the political power players who inject large amounts of money into area races for their own larger purposes.
When will stronger contribution reform happen?
My guess is -- when pigs fly.
Governments Religiously Impose ‘Sin Tax’
THIS week’s “Scrapbook” feature on pages 4 and 5 of the print edition of the Decatur Tribune is about popular evangelist Billy Sunday who came to Decatur in the early 1900s to hold crusades and to fight against sin.
According to an account in the Feb. 8, 1908, Decatur Herald, Billy Sunday told his audience in his initial speech, "Now you listen to me. We are going to clean up old Decatur; a better Decatur is going to emerge from the ruins. I propose to fight against the things that ruin manhood and womanhood in Decatur 'til hell freezes over, and then I'll get a pair of skates and work on the ice. Too long has religion been sidetracked for every little jack-leg proposition that comes along."
OBVIOUSLY, I wasn’t alive when Billy Sunday was preaching against sin in the “tabernacle” on West Eldorado Street, over a century ago. (I’m not THAT old!)
When I was a kid growing up in the church, there was an abundance of sinful words and actions that were condemned. It wasn’t hard to find sin -- especially because of the moral standards of the day.
SOMEWHERE along the line, preaching against “sin” disappeared from many church pulpits and more of a “social gospel” was used so as not to offend anyone who was practicing the sin the preacher had been condemning. Take one look around and. sometimes, it seems that “sin” has disappeared from our national conscience.
Some would have us believe there is no sin today, but all you have to do is look at the condition of the world to refute that belief.
After all, hating someone is a sin, and there’s plenty of that around.
ONE of the best places to find what was once regarded as “sin”, is in the “sin tax” imposed by governments at many levels, where they are using what formerly qualified as “sin” to discourage people from participating in it through taxation.
The government has a “sin tax” on tobacco, alcohol, gambling and anything else that produces revenue.
It hasn’t been that long ago that gambling was illegal in Decatur because of its negative impact on individuals, families and communities.
Today, we have video gambling (excuse me “gaming” which sounds better in this day and age) and there is no doubt city coffers would be a lot worse off if it had not been approved.
NOW, some of our state lawmakers want to legalize marijuana, - with some restrictions of course, because they “want our citizens to be safe.”
Several states have already approved legalizing marijuana and it has resulted in millions upon millions of dollars for their budgets.
Marijuana is also legal in our nation’s capitol, which may explain a lot about the actions and decisions of many of those leading our nation.
THERE is no doubt that “sin taxes” distort moral decisions by individuals, as in, “if the government approves it, it must be okay”.
It’s a strange situation when it comes to the sin tax: government wants to discourage certain bad behavior and yet, legalizes it and benefits from it through taxing it -- to discourage such behavior.
Then, government develops programs for addicts to help them overcome their addiction.
WHAT’S NEXT since the government is running out of “sins” to tax?
Well, gluttony is mentioned as a sin in the Bible...and, wouldn’t you know it, government is looking for a way to get more revenue when we buy the food that makes us fat, or when we pay extra for a can of soda because it has too much sugar in it.
When the time comes, and it will come, everytime I pull up to a fast food window and order, I will be paying extra for my “fat and sugar sin” to support my government’s “fat addiction” tax program.
RONALD Reagan’s often-used quote stated: “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
That’s a pretty clear explanation of government and the taxes imposed under the guise of regulation.
Although the word “sin” has seemingly disappeared from the national vocabulary -- tax on it is alive and well.
If government could impose a sin tax on “hateful political rhetoric”, the national debt would be eliminated!
Posted from 2/7/18 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
‘The Smell’ Defined The Viaduct Many Years Ago
I POSTED the photo of the Staley Viaduct on our Facebook Page a few days ago.
A lot of comments followed and it became apparent to me that most people either don’t remember, or never knew, the familiar overpass was renamed the William E. Sands Viaduct years ago.
I remember reporting on the ceremony and placement of the plaque officially naming the viaduct after Sands.
MOST OF the readers, who wrote on our Facebook Page, didn’t really know, or couldn’t remember, why the viaduct was named after Sands.
A few thought he was the mayor of Decatur back in the 1950s or 1960s.
Actually, Sands was never mayor, but was the City of Decatur’s Director of Public Works for a long, long time and was directly involved in many of the projects you see standing in Decatur today.
I knew Sands in my role as editor and often talked with him.
When he retired, the city council thought it was appropriate to name the viaduct after him and made it “official”.
Sands died on Oct. 2, 1996.
EVEN though the naming of the viaduct after Bill Sands was appropriate, it is difficult to change the name of a landmark and have people call it by a different name than the name they’ve always used.
The Staley Viaduct, or the Staley Overpass, continue to be used by about everyone.
Without doing more research, I’m not sure the viaduct was ever officially named after Staley,
I think that was more of a description of where it was, and why, than an official designation, but I need to check further into that to find out more history.
The Staley name is too engrained in our minds to block it out, regardless of any official name change.
I HAVE to admit, even though I knew Bill Sands in my role covering the City Beat, I still call it the Staley Viaduct -- without even remembering that it was renamed many years ago.
That doesn’t mean I’m disrespecting Bill, or his work for our community.
It does mean that’s what I’ve always called it and people also know what I’m referring to in using the name “Staley Viaduct”.
If I was having a conversation with someone and I referred to the “Sands Viaduct” most people would not understand what viaduct I was talking about.
It’s simply been “Staley” too long.
MOST OF US who have lived in an area or community about all of our lives, have difficulty referring to a place by a different name than the one we’ve used -- and our parents and grandparents used in referring to it.
One exception is probably when Broadway’s name was changed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It took a long time for many Decaturites to call the street anything other than Broadway.
Most now refer to it as MLK, but there still are people around who call it “Broadway”.
There will come a time when someone will refer to “Broadway” and a new generation of Decaturites will not know what street that person is talking about.
IF THERE is some consolation to the family members and friends of William B. Sands in his name not being used by very many people in referring to the viaduct, maybe it is in what most people associate with the structure from childhood on -- the smell encountered in crossing the viaduct.
Many of the comments on our Facebook Page referred to “the smell” in writing about the viaduct.
Here are just a few:
Kelly Gordon Robison: “I could smell it when I saw the picture!”
Marilyn Dunker Brown: “Dad always said Mr. Staley had his feet hanging out the top of the Staley building and that's why it smelled...”
Lee Brett: “Just looking at this photo I could smell the air crossing the viaduct one more time. We used to say Mr. Staley has his socks off!”
Jack Duguid: “In the early 60’s mom and dad used tell us to (jokingly) hold our breath when we were driving over it.”
Charlotte Hunsaker: “Stinky Staley's and when wind was just right you could smell it in Argenta.”
Neil Riddle: “For a lot of families it was the smell of money.”
I REMEMBER crossing the viaduct in the family car when I was a kid and dad would always issue a warning to get ready for the smell which was very strong.
I think the viaduct will always be commonly referred to with the Staley name and associated with “the smell” -- at least that’s what I’ve been able to “sniff out” of my memory bank.
Posted from 1/24/18 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Words And Phrases That You Don’t Hear Anymore
I DON’T HEAR a lot of the words and phrases today that I heard when I was growing up. They have become a part of our memory bank and we associate them with the people we knew and the events we attended.
My Grandpa Bolin would often exclaim “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” in shocked reaction to something.
“Great Caesar’s Ghost” disappeared from our vocabulary a long time ago.
WHEN my mother was in a hurry to get somewhere in a car, she would tell my dad, “Put the whip to her, Charlie”, (my dad’s name was Sam). The expression dated back to mom’s grandfather “putting a whip” to a horse so the horse and buggy would move faster!
That saying hung on well past the start of the automotive age -- but I haven’t heard it in decades.
“Put the pedal to the metal”, which meant push the accelerator all the way to the floorboard was once a popular statement when I was a teenager.
Later, it was simply “floor it” or “burn some rubber”.
I’m not sure what the order is to drive faster these days, but it can’t be as colorful as “Put the pedal to the metal” or “Put the whip to her, Charlie!”
WHEN OUR oldest son, Kevin, was attending Mound Middle School, he decided to attend a “sock hop” at the school.
He asked: “What does sock hop mean? Do you wear socks and kind of hop around?”
Actually, that was kind of the way it was back when I was in school a generation earlier than Kevin.
SEVERAL OF my readers recently forwarded to me an article (I don’t know who wrote it) that mentioned a lot of the “lost words” from my childhood.
In fact, the spell check on my computer didn’t recognize them.
Here are some of the words and phrases from that article that I found especially interesting:
• Heavens to Murgatroyd!
• Hunky Dory
• Straighten up and fly right.
• Don't touch that dial.
• Carbon copy.
• You sound like a broken record.
• Hung out to dry.
• Our best 'bib and tucker'.
• Heavens to Betsy!
• Gee whillikers!
• Jumping Jehoshaphat!
• Holy moley!
• We’re in like Flynn.
• Living the life of Riley
• Not for all the tea in China!
• Everything is Swell” has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers...and saddle stitched pants.
• Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle! or,
• This is a “fine kettle of fish”!
• The milkman did it.
• It's your nickel.
• Don't forget to pull the chain.
• Knee high to a grasshopper.
• I'll see you in the funny papers.
• Don't take any wooden nickels.
• Wake up and smell the roses.
• See ya later, alligator
• After while crocodile
THE ABOVE words and phrases that were in the aforementioned article are only the tip of the iceberg of words that have about disappeared from use as new words have replaced them.
A lot of the words have disappeared because of technology -- which has brought with it a whole new vocabulary that is often difficult to understand. It has affected the newspaper business. A common riddle that spanned a few generations was: “What’s black and white and red all over?” (People interpreted “read” as “red” when the question was asked.)
Today, newspapers like the Decatur Tribune, are black and white and have color on some of the pages -- meaning that riddle is no longer asked.
I’VE ALSO noticed that swear words never change. I guess technology doesn’t alter those words because there are always people around to use them when they get upset or want to describe how hot or cold it is outside.
We don’t have more swear words, (thank goodness) but it seems they are used in public more frequently.
For those who swear, they never have to learn new words -- that’s all they have in their vocabulary.
Now that I’ve made my point, I’m going to stop for now and “agitate the gravel”. (That means leave in my car.)
Posted from the Jan. 17, 2018 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Did You See This Person On Downtown Street?
I HAVE a confession to make: for the first time since I became editor of this newspaper decades ago, I wore a stocking cap on my head, and a muffler, to the office. (Where else would I wear a stocking cap except on my head?)
I have fought winter after winter and never given in to showing up at the office with anything on my head -- except hair, of course.
I’VE WORN A stocking cap when the kids were home and we would go out in the yard to build snowmen, or play “snow football”.
If I had car trouble in the dead of winter and had to work outside to get my car started, or change a tire (that’s about the extent of my automotive knowledge) I’ve worn a cap, but not during a business day.
My late mother always told me to “get a hat on your head. You’ll catch a death of a cold” and every winter’s day up until she passed away, she wanted me to get a hat on my head but I always went to the office bareheaded.
My mother passed away 27 years ago. I followed a lot of her advice (and still do) but she never got through to my cold head about the importance of wearing a hat or cap in cold weather.
WELL, all of that changed last week when Decatur really went into a deep freeze with some days having a wind chill factor of 30 below zero.
I didn’t wear a hat during most of those days, but Thursday when I seemed to be working on an ear ache in my right ear and a mild headache in my right temple, probably from the cold, I decided to surrender my “nothing on my head” policy -- at least a little.
I put some ear muffs and a stocking cap in my car and thought I would try just the ear muffs -- and not the cap.
Before getting out of the car I attempted to put on the ear muffs. I don’t know what crazy person invented ear muffs but the band holding them together was all over my head!
It was like two small cats were fighting in my hair! By the time I thought I had them on properly, I looked in the car’s mirror and both muffs were sticking out like air vents!
I TOOK off the ear muffs and tried to put them on one more time and that’s when the plastic band that held them together broke and I was left with two separate ear muffs in my hands.
I thought about using my hands to hold each one to my ear and pretend that I was listening to music as I walked into the building, but wisely decided against that idea.
I grudgingly grabbed the stocking cap, stuck it my overcoat pocket, and then used my hands to cover my ears on my walk to the office.
WHEN I had to get out and walk to the post office in sub-zero weather later that day I decided to try the stocking cap.
My office manager told me, through a smile, “you don’t even look like yourself!”
An attorney was getting off of the elevator as I was getting on, and I’m not sure he even knew who I was, even though his office is next to the Tribune offices and we’ve talked many times.
He was probably more confused when I called him “Rick” -- which wasn’t his name!
Obviously, a tight stocking cap was restricting my brain activity!
AS I walked the two blocks to the post office I passed three people I’ve known for years. They were heading my way and none of them even recognized me -- and I didn’t let them know that I was there under that stocking cap and muffler!
No one inside the post office recognized me either!
Maybe they thought I was a wanted man trying to hide my identity. After all, I looked like a police artist’s sketch of a wanted man that we run in the Tribune.
I WAS glad to get back to the office and get out of my “winter disguise” as my office manager again observed “that doesn’t even look like you”.
If the sub-zero weather hangs around, I may have to wear the stocking cap again since I’ve already broken my “no cap” rule.
I know this is a slippery slope: first I give in to wearing something on my head in the winter, and it could only be a matter of time before I stop wearing a suit and tie to the office!
I’m sure my mother is looking down and smiling because, after all of these years, I finally took her advice and “put something on my head”!
I hope she recognized me!
Posted from 1/10/18 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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A Few Suggestions For Practical Gifts
I have some suggestions for Christmas presents that I want to share with you.
• I would like for Santa to deliver to the White House two six packs of Diet Coke since so many members of the media are upset that President Donald Trump drinks 12 cans of it each day “when he could be drinking water!”
We should be thankful that he is not drinking 12 cans of beer, or some other brew, a day!
As a preemptive gift strike for President Trump, I’d like Santa to also deliver 12 rolls of toilet paper to him because I’m sure, just like the “Diet Coke Consumption” investigation, the next investigation will be on getting to the bottom to see how many rolls of toilet paper are used per week in the White House at taxpayers’ expense -- “when he could be using pages from a shopping catalog!”
I’m sure CNN, MSNBC or another like-minded news organization will be reporting back soon on the results of that investigation.
• I think President Trump needs an upgrade in his Twitter account with a parental control on it that automatically shuts off when he says something that makes most of us scratch our heads in disbelief!
With that “governor” on it, the batteries should last a long, long time.
• A great gift for members of both political parties serving in our nation’s capitol would be a board game -- like Monopoly. Oh, wait! I think they are already playing that game for real with our tax dollars!
• For fans of the Chicago Bears...how about a team worthy of the “Monsters of the Midway” tradition?
• A great gift for our mayor and city council members would be a good night’s sleep before voting whether or not to rezone Route 51 and Ash Avenue for commercial development.
• I think members of Congress should give the gift of doing something other than investigating members of the opposite political party.
• I believe a great gift for the American people would be to have term limits on those we elect to office.
When I first saw “The Walking Dead” series advertised on television, I thought it was a program about several members of Congress!
It’s not a “great legacy” when members of Congress, from both parties, are applauded for their service of 30 or 40 or 50 years in office.
They are usually there to serve themselves and not the people who elected them.
• I think a great gift for my long-time friend, Macon County Clerk Steve Bean, is a peaceful, enjoyable campaign season for the 2018 primary and general elections since it will be his last year at the helm. It will be quite a challenge for me to use the “Macon County Clerk” title without mentioning Steve Bean in the same breath.
• A great gift for those people who are always seeing something negative in everything -- would be a travel brochure!
• Super-Duper Shock Absorbers for the vehicles traveling on some of our streets would be much appreciated by drivers who feel like they are riding the Overland Stage Coach in getting to their destinations.
• For my possessed car “Christine”. an oil change with a sedative in the oil seems appropriate.
• For all of our readers, my wish is that this Christmas will be shared with those you love with plenty of memories of family members and friends who are no longer here but live on in family gatherings -- especially at Christmas-time.
Merry Christmas to all!
Above column from the Dec. 20th print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
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Some This And That From Here And There
• THE BEST way to put a positive spin on my day is to drive through the three (and only) traffic signals that are south on Route 51. The signals are just south of the bridge over Lake Decatur and when I hit all three on green on my way home I feel like I just won something -- although I don’t know what!
• THE OTHER DAY, an employee at the window of a fast food drive-through handed back my change and dollar bill separately.
Usually, workers at fast food drive through windows hand me change with one hand that has bills and the receipt, with the change balanced on top of both.
Countless times the coins have slid off as I’m bringing the money into my car -- leaving change on the floor, or even worse, on the ground between my car and the drive-through window. Having coin handed to me separately from the receipt and dollar bill is a much easier way to bring the money into the car.
• SOMETIMES, especially in warmer weather, I’ll be walking to the post office downtown and a motorist will open his or her car window and yell “I love your newspaper”.
It’s a small thing, but it sure does brighten my day -- especially considering a few other comments I hear from drivers that are not as “encouraging”!
• I ADMIT that I don’t like going through all the levels of automatic customer phone responses when I have to contact a major company about a problem we’re having with equipment in our office,
It is so refreshing when I actually talk to a real live person -- who speaks English, the only language I understand.
I have noticed in recent years, that when a company is trying to sell me something over the phone, the salesperson speaks clear, perfect English.
When I have to call about getting the product repaired, it seems like I’m speaking to someone in Pakistan who sometimes gets angry when I tell him that I can’t understand him -- or request that I talk to someone who speaks English!
• I’M at the age where I get somewhat spooked when I see the word “SMART” in front of a television, cellphone or other electronic devices.
Although I must have a degree of understanding of electronic equipment relating to newspaper production, I’ll have to admit that if a device that I’m going to use at home has the word “SMART” in front of its name, and on its advertisement, I know deep inside that device is going to be smarter than I am!
Maybe, for those of us who are older in years, and remember the days of black and white television with an antenna on the roof, new products should be simpler and called “NOT VERY SMART” and contain just the basics.
Of course, the exception to that idea, would be if you have a 6-year-old living in your house -- because he is smarter than any SMART electronic device, which can make an adult feel even dumber.
I like things simple.
• ALONG with several other people, I saw a driver turn her car off of North Franklin and onto North Park Street the other day.
The only problem with the turn was that North Park St. is a one way street heading towards Franklin, not away from it.
A few people tried to wave frantically at the driver to inform her that she was going the wrong way on a one way street, but she kept going like she was actually in the right -- and the “Do Not Enter” sign was wrong.
Do you ever notice that someone driving the wrong way on a one way street often acts like all the other cars on the street are going the wrong way?
• SOMEONE called me the other day and asked “Can you talk?”
I replied: “No. Someone swiped my vocal chords while I was asleep last night.”
He didn’t think it was funny -- but my vocal chords and I got a big kick out of it.
Obviously, some days, it doesn’t take much to make me laugh.
Posted From Dec. 13th print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Outrage Over Mistletoe In The White House!
THE HEADLINE on USA Today News read: “The Trump White House Is Hanging Mistletoe — And Some People Are Freaking Out”.
Say what? Freaking Out” over a sprig of mistletoe!
Melania Trump was in charge of decorating the White House and, amidst all of the decorations, some people went nuts and were “outraged” over her “insensitivity” in having a sprig of mistletoe.
Those opposed to the mistletoe (I guess we would call them anti-mistletoers) contend that, with all of the sexual assault allegations that are coming out, including those against Donald Trump, mistletoe is inappropriate at the White House.
AOL NEWS also ran a headline and story about the “outrage” from the public over the mistletoe.
That headline was a few days later than this one: “Melania Trump Sparks Twitter Outrage Over Her Sunglasses Following Las Vegas Trip”.
I think if Melania Trump walked on water, many people and news outlets would be “outraged” that she didn’t wear shoes when she did it!
HANGING a sprig of mistletoe in the White House doesn’t rise to the level of “outrage” in my book.
According to Webster’s Dic-tionary, the definition of “outrage” is “...an extremely vicious or violent act, a deep insult or offense, great anger aroused by an action”.
Just think -- we’ve reached the point in our nation where a sprig of “mistletoe” is an “outrage”.
WHEN I was growing up, the lyrics to a popular song included “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night.”
I don’t think anyone connected sexual assault or harassment, or domestic violence, to that song, but today, in this nation’s present environment, it could be pulled from the air!
I ALSO remember when my dad, mom, brother and I visited some family friends and my dad was talking to the father of the other family while he stood in a doorway -- unaware that a mistletoe was on the doorway above him.
When the high school age daughter came up and gave my dad a kiss on the cheek, everybody laughed and dad’s face turned about three shades of red from embarrassment.
(In today’s society, people don’t seem to be embarrassed by anything.)
Every time we visited that family during the holiday season, dad would always go over and stand under the mistletoe as a joke -- but he never got any more kisses because the funny surprise was over.
It was a sprig of mistletoe and a tradition in that household.
I BELIEVE the credible accusations of many women who were sexually assaulted by powerful men should be addressed and there seems to be a greater sensitivity and intolerance to those acts as a result of what happened to many of them.
What happened to them is an outrage -- but hopefully credibility of a legitimate issue will not be diminished by reaction to a sprig of mistletoe!
THERE’S certainly a lot to be outraged about these days with all the hatred that is going on in this nation.
Where’s the outrage over our hard-earned taxes being spent by some of our leaders to pay off women and men to keep them quiet about their affairs?
That’s our money -- not their money. Somehow they can never seem to find the money to do all the things for our veterans, elderly and disadvantage who need our help, but they can find the money to pay off those who might endanger their careers and re-election chances.
Now, that’s an outrage -- and cannot be compared to outrage over a sprig of mistletoe that was placed in the White House by the First Lady.
Let’s use our “outrage” on the truly “outrageous” -- and mistletoe is not included on that list.
Posted from Dec. 6, 2017 print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
* * * *
Some More Things That
I’ve Been Wondering About
EVERY once-in-a-while, I use this column to mention some things I’ve been wondering about.
• I’M WONDERING about a new way for seniors to get exercise. I stopped by McDonald’s one recent morning to pick up some breakfast and, since the drive-through lanes were long, and I was in a hurry, I decided to go inside to order.
I had to park a fair distance from the door and I was walking at a rapid pace so I could get in and out sooner, when an elderly man got out of his car and it appeared that he could barely move.
When he saw me heading for the door, he took off like a rocket! I’ve never seen an older gentleman move that fast!
He reached the door first and disappeared inside!
I wonder if, instead of going on walks for exercise, senior citizens could race me to the front door of McDonalds!
• WHILE I’M on the subject of fast food drive-throughs, I went to a Dairy Queen drive-through the other morning and ordered my breakfast to take to the office.
The pleasant voice at the other end of the menu speaker gave me the price, which was lower than usual for that item, and told me to pull around to the first window.
When I pulled around I told the young woman working there that she didn’t charge me enough, because I usually paid $3.55.
“No, it’s right,” she said. “I gave you the senior discount!”
She apparently knew I was a senior by my voice!
I think that was the first time that’s ever happened to me at a drive-through.
(Actually, the discount was nice.)
Remember when a person was called a senior citizen when he or she was 65-70 years old?
Now, the number seems to be hovering around the 50 years old mark, even though people are living longer.
If they keep lowering the senior age, future generations will be senior citizens as soon as they graduate from high school!
There’s not anything wrong with being a senior citizen (considering the alternative) but I wonder why the “senior age” keeps getting lower.
• I FOUND out today that the safe blood pressure guidelines have been lowered making 30 million more Americans at risk for heart attack and stroke.
I had a hard time living with the old guidelines -- and now this...
I wonder how many people, who are now at risk, increased their blood pressure by reading the new guidelines?
• I WAS leaving the downtown post office one morning last week, and as I was walking towards Franklin St., I saw a young woman unloading something from the back seat of a car -- which was parked in one of the lanes of traffic!
I figured someone was letting her off so she could unload a large package to take inside to mail.
Imagine my surprise when she got a small child out of the back seat, closed the car door and the two of them headed for the post office door with the driverless car parked in the traffic lane.
Of course, traffic started backing up behind her car and I saw some angry faces of drivers as they tried to get around the parked car in the traffic lane.
The young woman, who looked perfectly healthy to me, disappeared inside the post office doors seemingly unconcerned that she was causing traffic congestion by her illegal parking.
I have to admit that I wonder what goes on inside the brain of a person who thinks she (or he) can park anywhere they please and leave their car unattended while it creates a traffic hazard!
• I WONDER how many ailments and diseases mentioned in television commercials there are that most viewers know anything about? Where do they come up with the names for the conditions advertised?
I grew up in an era where you either had a cold, the flu, measles, chicken pox, mumps or something else easy to pronounce.
Every ailment back then had a simple name and an easy medicine to pronounce.
Now, you can damage your tongue just trying to tell people what is wrong with you and most people can’t begin to name the drugs they are taking for what ails them -- or even name all of the possible side effects from taking the medicine!
Is that crazy or what?
Posted 11/18/2017 from print edition of the Decatur Tribune
Disrespecting Our Flag Is
Disrespecting Our Veterans
VETERANS DAY is Saturday, Nov. 11, and we will have another opportunity to show our appreciation for all the veterans who have given so much to keep our nation free and make sure that old glory still waves and our national anthem can still be heard.
Both get my respect, even if I disagree with some of our nation’s policies.
They are my flag and anthem -- and I treat them with respect because I owe such a debt of gratitude to those who have defended our flag and nation -- even to the point of giving their lives.
VETERANS DAY football games will be played on Saturday (and Sunday, too) as colleges and NFL teams will once again take to the field
Veterans Day will also be a day when some team members, both in college and in the pros, will show disrespect for the flag and our anthem.
Most of those who will “take a knee” claim they will not show respect for the flag until those in authority make the changes in America they want to see made.
Others who take a knee claim they were offended by something President Trump said, and some just plain don’t know why they are taking a knee -- except it is an exercise of their “right”.
THOSE who are offended by the “one knee stand”, are reminded that veterans served their country to give them the right to disrespect the flag under freedom of expression, or freedom of speech.
In fact, many claim they are not disrespecting veterans, only bringing attention to the injustices that continue under our flag and anthem.
However, I don’t believe you can separate our flag from the veterans we honor who served under it.
I WAS looking through some of the artwork that newspapers and magazines use to illustrate Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and a very high percentage of it includes our flag.
When those who give their lives serving this country are brought home, their coffins are draped with the American flag.
When veterans are buried, the flag is folded and presented to the spouse, mother, father or family member.
IF YOU think about it, every time there is an event, parade or activity involving our veterans, the flag of the United States of America is there.
You can’t separate the flag from our veterans.
If it wasn’t for our veterans, the flag would not even be here and there would be no national anthem.
There would not be the freedom to disrespect the flag and our veterans.
I have to chalk up some of the disrespectful actions regarding our flag to those involved simply not knowing any better because of their age.
Hopefully, life will teach them more respect for our flag and our veterans when they start living in the real world.
THERE IS no question this country has its share of problems and they need meaningful solutions, but countless Americans work everyday to improve this nation and make life better -- and have for years. They don’t disrespect the flag.
They see it as a symbol of what we are...not what we aren’t.
They see it as an inspiration to always do better -- because we are a nation of people who can work together to make things better for all of us.
MAYBE I’M also very sensitive to disrespectful actions against our flag, because my father, uncles, cousins, and so many others, were veterans fighting for our nation and that flag.
Today, one of our sons, Craig, and one of our granddaughters, Kristen, continue the tradition of service in their army careers.
They serve under the same flag that some are disrespecting today because they care deeply about our nation.
SO, ANYONE who takes a knee and doesn’t show respect for our flag, even though they claim not to have anything against those who serve our country, probably don’t realize they actually look like a bunch of ingrates.
There are other times and places to make a point.
When our flag and our veterans are disrespected, those taking a knee don’t look like fighters for justice but insensitive souls who demean their message by their disrespectful actions.
Anyone who uses our flag and our veterans in a disrespectful way is also insulting military families.
I find such disrespectful actions unpatriotic and insulting to my family and the families of other veterans.
Obviously, from public reaction, I’m certainly not alone in that feeling.
Posted From 11/8/17 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
'Outhouse Tipping' Was Halloween
Prank In Another Era
I WAS a kid in an era where many homes still had “outhouses”, sometimes called other descriptive names that I can’t print in this publication.
I guess something that would be comparable to outhouses today would be port-a-pots that are seen at outdoor events in places like Central Park and close to some ball diamonds in the summer.
However, the “outhouses” were usually more elaborate, built out of wood and located some distance from the house. (After all, who would want something like that actually located near the house?)
FOR THE more well-to-do citizens the outhouse was built out of brick and made a statement about the affluence of the person who used it.
It was necessary for the same purpose, whether it was built out of wood or brick -- but “going in style” was apparently somewhat fashionable back then.
For the most part, outhouses were used because homes had no running water and the thought of having an “outhouse” in the house was repulsive.
What kind of civilized people would do something like that?
That’s “going” too far!
MY maternal grandparents lived on the northern edge of Hammond, a small community 20 miles east of Decatur on Route 36 -- and a place that’s still near and dear to my heart.
For most of their lives they had an outhouse that was located at the far end of a row of buildings that included a coal and cob building (for cooking and heating storage), a hog house and chicken coop.
With that line-up, needless to point out, it was a wooden, not a brick, outhouse with old Sears catalogs to read.
As a kid, I thought it was paradise.
WHEN I would stay with my grandparents, I was always apprehensive about using the outhouse, fearful that some snake would find its way into the bottom pit of it and bite me where it would be embarrassing to be treated.
This belief was fostered by one of my uncles seeing a snake in the pit below the “outhouse seating” area one day.
Staying with my grandparents on any day in the wintertime, when the snow was falling and the temperature was subzero, was the ultimate challenge!
If that didn’t make you a survivor, nothing would.
THE REASON I’m writing a brief history of my experience with outhouses when I was a kid, is because, about every Halloween I’m reminded that, one of the biggest, and most aggravating Halloween pranks I knew about was tipping over outhouses.
There was a lot more “tricking” than
“treating” back in those days!
Although I never participated in such pranks (honest!) I would see the aftermath of such destruction the morning following Halloween when we would ride around town and see who got “tipped”.
Usually, the outhouses weren’t destroyed, just tipped over and could be “righted” with some help the following day.
OUTHOUSE owners fearful of getting their outhouses tipped on Halloween, took preventive measures to avoid the disaster.
The two pro-active moves that I remember the most resulted in one failure and one success:
1) A neighbor got inside his outhouse on Hallo-ween night with a shotgun full of buckshot to teach the pranksters a lesson if they once again targeted his outhouse. He fell asleep while waiting and the pranksters tipped his outhouse over with him in it -- and the door was on the ground side and he couldn’t get out for several hours until he was rescued!
2) Another man had his outhouse moved to one side Halloween night leaving the pit exposed. When the pranksters came to tip it over they fell (I was told) into the pit. I assume the identities of the “attempted pranksters” were later “sniffed out” by sheriff’s deputies.
WHEN I was in high school, my grandparents had an indoor bathroom installed, as did many other homeowners, and the outhouse tipping on Halloween started to disappear.
Some outhouses remain on farms (even though indoor plumbing was installed in farm houses years ago) and other places in the nation, but they are not as common in our area as they once were.
The ultimate annual Halloween prank has become ex-stink...I mean extinct, and today’s homeowners breathe easier knowing that their “outhouses” are now inside where no tipping is possible.
--Posted From Oct. 25, 2017 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
Readers Get ‘A Charge’ Out Of FOB Column
LAST WEEK’S column about my dead battery keyless car access FOB, which essentially shut my car down, brought a lot of comments from readers who experienced the same FOB problems.
I always find it interesting that any column that includes references to my possessed car “Christine”, attracts a lot of attention and comments.
Maybe that’s because car problems can be a headache for many people who own a car.
RICHELLE (I’m just using first names in order to keep cars from retaliating) sent one of the more interesting emails on the subject: “ I just read your FOB story. It was very funny and interesting. My FOB went dead after a football game between Meridian and LSA. I was alone in the parking lot at Meridian, in the dark, and couldn’t get my car started.
“A nice gentleman stayed with me until luckily, after numerous times, it finally started.
“My FOB doesn’t have a key, and my car doesn’t have a place for a key to start, so the push button is the only way to start the car. The next morning, I called the dealership and they told me to put the FOB on top of the start button and it should at least pick up enough juice to start the car.
“I was able to get a replacement battery from REXX. I bet it was cheaper than the dealership.”
JOHN commented: “Based on my experience, they should change the letters F.O.B to S.O.B.!”
I assume, probably incorrectly, that John was referring to crying or sobbing over a dead battery in his car’s FOB, instead of, well, I’ll let you fill in the words.
MATT commented that if I didn’t know how to drive my car, then I should get a horse and buggy.
I guess that’s something like, if I don’t care for some of the American-made car features THEN MOVE TO ANOTHER COUNTRY!
Boys and girls, Matt seems to have anger management problems.
It’s a good thing that he doesn’t own my car -- that big vein on his neck would probably explode after a few days!
ACTUALLY, I like my car -- especially when it is resting in a parking space downtown with the engine turned off.
It’s the unnecessary technology on newer vehicles that I don’t like all that much. I like things simple.
I also like the local dealerships. They are not responsible for a car being possessed -- or even being “repossessed”. (I just threw the repossessed comment into this column free of charge as a public service.)
AFTER writing this column last week, I dug the owner’s manual out of Christine’s “glove compartment”, or whatever it is now called, and, after clearing the wolfbane off that was on top of it , I actually read some of it.
Richelle was right in her earlier comment about putting the FOB (the chrome end) next to the push button and getting power to get the car started.
I didn’t have to do that.
By the way, the car dealership replaced the batteries in my FOBs free of charge -- no pun intended.
SO, it was a nice feeling to drive to the office the next morning and not have to be stressed about the dead FOB messages on the car’s digital speedometer screen.
The screen reported the mph I was traveling and had no other messages.
Then, I noticed the heater wasn’t blowing hot air. I took it to be serviced and found out there was a leak in the water pump!
WHAT is aggravating about Christine is that she nags me about a low battery in the key FOB, but remains totally silent about her defective water pump!
I keep getting told that I should get rid of that car, but Christine is like a dog that bites you every night when you come home. Except for the bite marks, you’ve grown fond of his personality.
I THINK my relationship with Christine is not what it should be and maybe I’m partially to blame -- I expect a car to act like a car.
I think joint counseling sessions might be in our future.
Monday night, a waitress in Steak ‘n Shake asked if Christine was in the parking lot. (Probably, a few eyebrows raised from customers at other tables.)
I replied that she was in the car hospital overnight. (More eyebrows raised.)
A customer I know, who overheard the conversation, came to my table and said he was sorry to hear that Christine wasn’t feeling well.
“Get well” cards for Christine may be next on the agenda as the word spreads about her water pump “surgery”!
Above column Posted from Oct. 18th print edition of the Decatur Tribune
Does Keyless FOB Mean
‘Frustrate Osborne’s Brain’?
I HAVE written before in this column about some of the difficulties with my possessed car, “Christine” -- and how she seems to have a mind of her own.
Christine has a “keyless fob” remote entry as do many of the cars today. If the “keyless fob” is in my pocket I can walk up to my locked car, pull the door handle, and it will automaticallly unlock. I can also start the engine with a button, meaning I never have to get a key out of my pocket in order to open my door and start the engine.
That sounds like a great feature -- at least I thought so at first!
SINCE I purchased Christine a few years ago, I’ve had to replace the battery in the “keyless fob” plus endure the constant warning of Christine that the keyless fob battery is low and has “0” power left (she lies a lot).
Since I have to drive several miles to the dealership to have the battery replaced (it’s not like a normal battery), and don’t have the time to spare because of everything else that is happening in my business, I decided to continue to use the “keyless fob” to see how long it would last with “0” battery strength!
Every time I drove the car, Christine would flash the message constantly on the digital speedometer screen that there was “0” power left in the keyless key and I needed to replace it. (Christine never seems to run out of battery strength.)
Nag. Nag. Nag.
I DROVE the car with that highly irritating message on the screen until one day last week when I got into the car, started the engine and the message had disapeared!
I had not replaced the battery and had no problem unlocking or locking my car door, or starting my car’s engine.
Maybe Christine got tired of warning me and will let me find out the hard way that I should listen to her “advice”.
FROM the time I was a teenager I got along fine by using a regular key for a car until I bought Christine and the keyless entry came with her.
Back in the pre-keyless fob days I never had to replace a key battery because there was none.
I never had to make a trip to a dealership so I could drive my car.
Since the message finally disappeared from my possessed car, I figured that I had beaten Christine and the keyless fob battery.
You have to know my assumption was wrong.
I GOT into my car at home early this morning to drive to the office and, when I pushed the button to start the car, Christine sent a message on my speedometer screen that the car wouldn’t start because there was no remote signal! (Translation: keyless fob was dead.)
I went back into the house, got the other keyless fob and it didn’t work either!
There is an auxiliary key that pops out of the keyless fob so I flipped it open. It looks something like a fat steel toothpick and, if I carried it on a commercial flight I could be arrested by security guards for having a dangerous weapon on me!
It is kind of like a short “switchblade” knife that pops out with a touch of a small button.
If someone attacks me in a dark alley in the future, I will whip out by keyless fob switchblade and be ready for a rumble!
Such actions on my part will probably result in a national movement to register, or ban, keyless fobs as dangerous weapons!
SINCE I HADN’T read the 200-page manual that came with my car I wasn’t fully aware of how the switchblade worked, but I stuck it in a place in my car door that appeared to accept it and I could lock and unlock the door.
I then got back into my car and the message on the screen disappeared and the car roared to life.
When I got to the parking lot and shut the car off, I got out and locked the door and looked at the speedometer screen which indicated the battery in my keyless fob was low!
I LEARNED after the dealer was called that I should make an appointment with the service department to have the battery changed!
Now that’s real convenient. I can see how a keyless fob is much better than a regular non-maintenance steel key (not).
Some references on the internet claim that I can actually change the battery myself, but I think that is fake news.
Maybe I will just drive our 3/4 ton newspaper delivery van until I can find the time to make an appointment to get Christine’s keyless fob battery replaced.
The van isn’t as fancy, but it starts with a regular key and doesn’t nag me about anything.
That’s my kind of peaceful driving.
--Reprinted from Oct. 11, 2017 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
More Gadgets = More Things To Go Wrong
MY FATHER, Sam Osborne, died 15 years ago at the age of 92, but during his long life he was able to witness a lot of automotive history being made and became widely known for his astounding ability to fix about any car or appliance that came his way.
During all of the time that I was growing up, and even several years beyond that, we never took any of our vehicles to a garage to be repaired, or ever called a serviceman to fix an appliance or anything else in our home.
When he retired from Caterpillar, he was supervisor of planning, but served many years as head of the gear line. He had a natural gift of understanding how things worked.
THE FIRST several years after I purchased this newspaper, whenever a typesetting machine, or some other piece of equipment would break down, dad would come by and fix it. He actually manufactured, in his garage, a complete control panel for a huge used computer I bought that had the control panel missing.
He did so without any printed diagrams (because I bought it used) or any other materials to show him how the refrigerator-size computer worked. He drew his own design, purchased some wires, a piece of steel and tiny bulb indicators and when we inserted the panel, the computer came to life!
WELL, I inherited no such skills from my dad. My brother, Sam, Jr., inherited every bit of the “mechanical gene” from our dad. I could write about what they were doing, but I never applied myself to learning any of those skills.
Although I didn’t inherit any of dad’s mechanical genius, I did learn a lot about his perspective regarding an advancing automotive industry where he watched vehicles getting more sophisticated and technology encroaching on personal car repairs to the point that fewer and fewer guys like my dad could work on their own cars with just basic tools.
THE LAST several years of his life dad wasn’t able to work on cars because of his age and declining health -- and because more sophisticated tools were needed which weren’t in his tool box.
However, the wisdom that he imparted to me, and to my brother, revolved around the simple philosophy that “the more things you have on a car, the more you have to go wrong.”
WHEN I was going to buy my first couple of cars, one was a used convertible and the other was a used “flip-top” Ford where the roof retracted into the car.
I thought they would be great to drive in cruising through Steak ‘n Shake, but dad advised both could have high maintenance costs -- especially the flip top Ford.
He said it would be better to buy a car that didn’t have as many gadgets on it that could need repairing.
Fortunately, I knew that he was right.
THOSE OF you who regularly read this column know that I have often mentioned my “possessed” car “Christine”, that I purchased a couple of years ago.
Christine is loaded with a lot of “gadgets” and technology that I don’t need or will ever use including a “bossy attitude”.
She’s been known to start her engine in the parking lot when she gets bored and do some other irritating and somewhat creepy things.
ANYONE who watches me get out of my car after I arrive at the office each morning will often see me walk a half block back to the car just to make sure her engine isn’t running!
Christine warns me when her gas tank is nearing empty and jabbers about other aspects of maintenance, like when one of her tires is two pounds low on air or, if I know where I’m going.
Some have asked why I don’t get rid of her but I don’t want to scare the daylights out of another owner and I still hold out hope that she will mature with age.
I do know, considering my father’s view of cars full of gadgets, that if he was alive today, I wouldn’t be driving Christine home to introduce her to dad.
If I did, he would probably look at Christine, and all of the technology, and ask: “Is she a relative of that flip-top Ford you were going to buy when you were a teenager?”
Posted from 9/27/17 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
'Do You Know When You Are Going To Retire?'
WHEN I speak to various groups around the city, during the question and answer period, I can always count on someone in the audience asking: “Do you know when you are going to retire?”
Recently, I pulled up to a fast food drive-through window where I hadn’t been for a few years, and the woman at the window asked “What are you doing now that you are no longer mayor -- just taking it easy?”
When I told her that I was still editing and publishing the Decatur Tribune, she got a shocked look on her face and exclaimed” “Oh, my goodness!” -- like she had seen a ghost!
WHEN we eliminated the special rate on a two-year subscription (for the print edition) a few years ago. I received several inquiries wanting to know if that meant I was winding down towards retirement.
Actually, it meant that we were hurting ourselves offering a reduced rate for a two-year mail subscription.
(We still have subscribers that order the Tribune for two years at full price and I appreciate their confidence.)
WE RECEIVED a telephone call not that long ago from a caller inquiring when “Mr. Osborne is going to retire” because she had a relative who might be interested in the job.
She also indicated that she didn’t want me to retire, but if...
Sometimes, when for some reason a subscriber doesn’t receive that week’s copy of the Tribune at the usual time, he or she will call the office to make sure that I’m okay.
Not that long ago, a man left a message on our answering service asking if I was “still alive”.
Recently, one very sweet lady didn’t receive her Tribune on Thursday as she usually did and called to make sure that I wasn’t sick.
I APPRECIATE our readers’ concerns. Although we have thousands of annual subscribers in Decatur and across the nation, many seem like old friends and I print comments from a few of their many notes on the back page each week. There are many more personal letters which are not printed, because they are marked “personal” or “fyi”.
Those readers write to share personal feelings and I care about what they are going through.
I feel honored that they look upon this newspaper as more than a publication, but a trusted friend.
WITH THIS week's print edition, the Decatur Tribune starts its 50th year. Founded in 1968, it was going to shut down the following year after a rocky first year.
I bought it in 1969, one week before it was closing down for good.
Everyone advised me not to buy the Tribune because they felt it was being “dumped” on me and that I was a fool.
I’ll have to confess that, nearly 50 years later, it’s satisfying to know the “fool” (me) is still publishing the Decatur Tribune print edition newspaper.
AS WE head towards the newspaper’s 50th birthday next September, from time to time, I will share some stories about the people who work here, the lifetime friendships that have been formed, politicians, famous people and fellow citizens that I’ve met over the years and the challenges faced to keep publishing the Decatur Tribune.
About retirement, I honestly don’t know when I will step aside or offer the newspaper for sale. That will be one of the hardest decisions in my life -- much harder than anything I’ve done in my career, but that time will come.
The Decatur Tribune is so much a part of me and I know that it will be a major adjustment when it happens.
IT WAS an easy decision for me to buy this newspaper in 1969, even if it did seem foolish to others -- because I believed it had a future.
It will be much harder to decide when to retire but that day will come -- hopefully before God decides to retire me permanently.
I thank God everyday for giving me the health to continue writing, editing and publishing this newspaper each week for almost a half century.
THANKS TO YOU, our readers, an extremely understanding family, a very loyal staff (all have been with me for 30 years or more -- including Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara who has been with me for 41 years) and the businesses and others that have supported us over the years, the presses continue to roll.
God has blessed this effort and I’ve been blessed to spend my life doing something I really love doing -- and I hope that comes through in what I write.
Now, I’ve got to get back to the rest of the newspaper so you will receive your print copy on time and not think that I’m sick -- or dead!
--Reprinted from the 9/20/17 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
Private Tour Reveals Downtown’s
Future Is Bright
I’VE ENJOYED being in downtown Decatur about all of my life, first as a child accompanying my mother and grandmother to what was then the shopping mecca of Central Illinois.
As a student at Roosevelt Jr. High School, I would ride my bicycle downtown to the Carnegie Library and on to Lincoln Square to sit and watch all of the activity that fascinated me.
ABOUT THE first thing I did when I got my driver’s license was head for downtown and drive around the Transfer House. It was located in Lincoln Square back then and driving around it was a “rite of passage” for those of us who were “newly-licensed” drivers.
It was quite a thrill and I remember that feeling of liberation a teenager often feels when he, or she, can drive -- legally.
I bought my first printing equipment, a used hand-cranked mimeograph, from Paul Long at Haines & Essick on East William Street, downtown.
IT WAS downtown, in the 1960s, that I started the business that publishes this newspaper.
There was never any doubt where I wanted to begin my publishing career -- it was downtown Decatur in a two-room office on the east side of the fifth floor of the Standard Office Building, 132 South Water Street.
Today, the building is Millikin Court. Seven years ago, we moved back to larger offices of the building where I started, after being located at several other buildings over decades since I started, including the Hecht Building, Van Praag Building, DeWitt Building and J. D. Johnson Building.
NEEDLESS to point out, I’ve always loved downtown and viewed it as a “destination, not a drive-through”.
That certainly was a theme I pushed during the years I was mayor. As downtowns all over the nation were changing with the times, I felt we had a lot to market in our downtown -- but it would have to be a different downtown than the one so many of us fondly remember.
REGARDLESS OF where my office was located downtown I watched as the core area started losing a lot of the buildings that seemed like old friends from different decades of my life.
The view out my office windows was often bittersweet as what made up downtown was disappearing -- casualties of changing times.
Parking lots started occupying the space where buildings once stood tall.
I knew it could never be again what it once was -- but we could make it a different kind of downtown and create new memories and businesses.
FRIDAY afternoon, I had a really enjoyable tour to see what was happening with some of the buildings that are familiar to many of us.
Tim Raycraft and Ben Andreas of Main Place Properties, LLC. gave me a walking tour of what’s happening to the properties within a block of their offices at Main and Main streets.
I won’t go into great detail at this point, but I was very impressed by a lot of what they are doing with several buildings.
THEY ARE completely updating many of these buildings. There’s a lot going on inside -- including modern apartments with 1500 to 2200 square feet of space each -- and great views.
The penthouse floor of the building on the northwest corner of Main and North Water, now is the home of Capellis Studio and Spa, which makes you think you are in a high rise in a major city when you walk through the door for the first time -- and the view is spectacular.
I toured other buildings in the area that are getting new life in an impressive way -- and there’s a lot more to come!
WHEN I returned to my office after the tour and looked out my windows at the buildings I’ve seen all of my life -- eight have been transformed, or are in the process of being transformed and occupied, and that’s happened during the past year or two -- and there are even more on Wood and Main streets undergoing changes.
Tim and Ben were excited about what was being accomplished and the new life that was being created downtown, not only through their efforts, but others who believe in downtown and are willing to invest.
Now, when I look out of my office windows, I not only see downtown’s past -- but also its bright future.
Posted 9/13/17 from print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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The World Can Be A Confusing Place These Days
I REALIZE as I grow older that the world can be a confusing place for a lot of people my age.
Probably that’s the reason that I find so many things that I see and hear today somewhat confusing.
Let me give you some examples:
• A YOUNG woman in a workout outfit walked through a door in front of me at a convenience store recently. She appeared very physically-fit and apparently took great pride in staying in shape.
Then, I could not help but notice that she purchased a couple of packs of cigarettes.
I thought, maybe, she had purchased the cigarettes for someone else, but, before I left the parking lot I saw her with a cigarette in her mouth and puffing away like it was part of an excercise routine!
Isn’t cigarette smoking the number one cause of lung cancer?
How does a person stay so healthy and work on staying fit with a cigarette in their mouth?
• THE LINCOLN Memorial was vandalized last week and police are searching for the person or persons who sprayed red graffiti on the monument, apparently as part of the movement to attack reminders of those involved in having slaves before the Civil War.
Here’s a hint for the person or persons who did the damage -- they called Abraham Lincoln “The Great Emancipator”.
Maybe the credibility of some who are protesting slavery of more than a century ago would be enhanced if they read a little history before protesting -- like Lincoln was the president who freed the slaves.
He was one of the “good guys”.
• “CHRISTINE”, my infamous possessed car, continues to give me strange information. She indicated the other day it was time for a check-up and I didn’t think I had driven that many miles. I think she meant it was time for ME to have a check-up -- as in “mental evaluation”.
• SPEAKING of Christine, there will be a time in the not-to-distant future when I will have to take a driver’s test to get my lieense renewed.
I’m thinking of not driving Christine that day out of fear that, when the driver’s license facility employee and myself are driving down the road, Christine will scream: “LOOK OUT! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE WITH YOU DRIVING!”
That could affect my test result.
• WHEN LOOKING for an expert to explain how President Donald Trump could better communicate his feelings about the recent Charlottesville demonstrations, the national news networks went to Anthony Scaramucci, a man who used “expletives” instead of “expertise” in communicating to the public and got fired for his choice of words after ten days as White House Communications Director.
He’s an expert on the wrong way to communicate.
• WHILE I’M on that subject I’ve always found it strange that journalists keep going to Monica Lewinsky to comment on world affairs. I don’t have anything against Miss Lewinsky, but examine her credentials for being an expert on world affairs -- she had sex with President Clinton in the White House! That’s about it.
Using Monica Lewinsky to give insight into what’s happening on the international stage is a lot like asking Kim Kardashian to be guest speaker at the International Modesty Conference.
• IF FIRST Lady Melania Trump has a calming influence on President Donald Trump, and he tweets crazy things when she’s out of town, why doesn’t she put a parental control on his tweeter?
• THE ECLIPSE was seen by half of the population of this nation on Monday. First, how does anyone know and, second, what was the other half of the population doing?
No one seems to know.
Posted from 8/23/17 Print Edition of the Decatur Tribune
Old Memories While Looking
Inside A ‘New’ Building
AS I WROTE in a “Scrapbook” article a couple of months ago, the building at 263-265 South Park Street has a special meaning for me, especially the second floor, that had been designed for Radio Station WDZ when it made its move from Tuscola to Decatur in 1949.
I started writing and hosting the “Thoughts for Today” program on WDZ in the 1960s and was in that building hundreds of times.
Years later, I was on Lois Howlett’s WDZ “Hotline” one day a week.
AFTER WDZ left for another location, we moved the Decatur Tribune to that building in the 1980s where we occupied the same space as did WDZ. Also, in the 1980s, I was hosting the “Live At Five” television program on WFHL and for several years, until 1994, we used a television production studio we had built inside the newspaper on the second floor.
When we had to move to larger space on the north side of the park, I remember walking into my private office, which had a great view of Central Park for the last time. I took one last look out the windows because I knew I wouldn’t be back.
That was 22 years ago.
FOR THE past year, I’ve watched as the building’s exterior was being transformed and knew the interior was being gutted and completely redone.
I couldn’t help but wonder how the second floor was going to look, compared to the time that we were there. Then, last week, FirsTech, a subsidiary of Busey Bank, held an open house and ribbon cutting to give the public a view of its remodeled building.
Although I was interested in what had happened to the building, and what FirsTech was doing there, I especially wanted to see the second floor and my office that had the great view.
I WALKED over to the open house and my first question to long-time friend Dave Weber, an executive with Busey was: “Can I see the second floor?”
Dave answered in the affirmative, so he and I, and a few others, climbed the stairs to the second floor and I’ll have to admit my heart was beating a little faster (not because of climbing the stairs) in anticipation of seeing what my old office looked like after being completely remodeled.
THE DOOR opened and we were there and standing in the doorway of my old office, but it had all changed, except, of course, the view was the same.
The interior of the building is all new and completely changed. There wasn’t anything left of what was there when we occupied the space. It’s an open, bright concept and it looks amazing!
The room where the teletype printed out the latest news from a paper roll is gone. The radio studio, the broadcast booth, the darkroom, the television program set where we did “Newsline” each day -- all gone without a trace.
All of the carpeting on the studio walls to deaden sound -- all gone. Not a familiar wall was left standing.
DAVE WEBER talked with me about the last time there was an open house in the building -- in the 1980s.
We (the Tribune) held the open house to show the public our new television studio -- and Dave attended.
Now, he was welcoming me to FirsTech’s open house in the same place.
I THINK FirsTech (Busey) and all who worked on the building at 265 South Park St. did a fantastic job!
I’m extremely pleased that FirsTech saw potential in the building and not only saved it, but made it like new.
AS MOST of you know I’m a sentimental guy when it comes to buildings, places and people that have impacted on my life.
I’ll have to admit that, since the open house, I’ve thought a lot about my presence in that building for so many years, and even though this building’s interior doesn’t resemble anything like where my memories were made -- I’m happy with what it looks like inside and out.
THE BUILDING is like new and, although the once-familiar interior has vanished forever, the memories of my many years of experiences in the building, and the people I met and worked with at 265 Park Street, remain fresh.
There will be more good memories created at 263-265 South Park by those who now occupy it and that’s great -- because I have more than my share of fond remembrances that will last me the rest of my life.
Posted From 8/16/17 Print Edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Full Moon, ‘Signs’ May Explain A Lot
ONE QUESTION that is asked frequently in the office of the Decatur Tribune is “lunar” in nature as in “Is there a full moon?”
That’s because certain crazy behavior on the part of some people who contact our office always seems to come during a full moon.
OVER the years that I’ve been editor of this newspaper, I’ve had a ton of really wild calls that have been so far out there, they must have been made from a space ship!
Most, if not all, came during a full moon.
There have been a few people call and complain because the newspaper type is either too large (because we want to promote violence and death) or too small (because we want to hide violence and death) and that I should either quit promoting violence and death -- or trying to hide it!
The reason I know most, if not all, came during a full moon is because either I, or a staff member, commented, “It’s a full moon.”
I COULD give you even more serious, threatening examples of such conduct, usually when there’s a full moon, and some are so ridiculous they would leave you howling! Oops.
Sorry. I guess “howling” is probably not the appropriate word to use with lunar effect stories.
I’ll check to see if I’m writing this column during a full moon. (I feel hair rapidly growing on my face, arms and legs even thought wolfbane is not in bloom.)
THE FULL MOON or “lunar effect” is a belief that there is a connection between our planet’s lunar cycle and strange behavior in human beings.
Quite a few studies have tried to debunk the belief stating that a full moon has “no signficant lunar effect on human behavior”.
I’m not so sure, based on personal experiences going back to when I was a kid and many people who lived in rural communities were especially sensitive to when they planted, when farm animals were weaned or even when the “sign was right” to get a tooth pulled to avoid excessive bleeding.
MANY BELIEVED that above ground vegetables should be planted when the moon was large, even full, and below ground vegetables, like potatoes should be planted when the moon was dark.
Lunar signs in the Old Farmers Almanac were closely followed by a lot of farmers I knew when I was growing up.
The position of the moon, or a particular lunar sign, indicated to some farmers the best time to dehorn cattle or “set hens”.
SUSAN CAPPS was quoted in Bittersweet Magazine years ago, that a person should get a haircut during a full moon (I’m going to change my barber appointment), have teeth pulled when ”the sign” is in the thighs going down, but wait if it’s in the mouth, wean the baby when the sign is in the thighs going down and the best time to fish is when the sign is in the bowels! (Now you know why you didn’t catch anything on your last fishing trip.)
THERE WAS a time when the position of the moon and “signs” were considered “works of the devil” by some fundamentalists, but my mother was a devout Christian and she would “check the sign” in the almanac before anyone in our family had a tooth pulled, or something of equal physical impact on us -- and none of us ever had a problem with excessive bleeding from a procedure.
Mom learned “the signs” from her father -- a farmer, which were passed down from his father.
I’ll have to admit that I haven’t carried on that tradition, but there are many people today who believe in checking the “lunar effect” on their lives.
For me, it makes God’s creation even more amazing.
I WILL have to admit there’s a mountain of personal experiences by people who have followed the lunar signs and found they worked when the sign was in the “right place”.
It has also given me a clearer explanation of why the majority of those representing us in Springfield recently delivered our biggest tax increase in Illinois history -- they must have either voted for it during a full moon (it’s always a full moon in the state capitol) or “the sign” was not in the head but in the bowels!
Posted from the 7/26/17 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
A Strange Request In The Post Office Lobby
I WAS in the nearly empty downtown post office Saturday morning, minding my own business (honest!) and sorting through that day’s Tribune mail at one of the tall tables in the lobby.
Suddenly, a young man appeared next to me and said: “Excuse me, but can you help me out? I need five dollars to mail this package to my brother in Belleville.”
WELL, I have to admit that, in all of the years I’ve been working and walking in the downtown area, and going into the post office, no one has ever asked me for money to mail a package!
They’ve asked me for money for food and about everything else, but never to mail a package!
He was a very polite young man and wore a red t-shirt and was sincere in his question -- but most panhandlers have “sincerity” as part of their requests.
I ASKED him his name and if he lived in Decatur. He gave me his name, or a name, and I’m not sure, but I think he said he lived, or was moving to, Decatur.
When he saw me gazing at the box he held, which wasn’t much larger than a bread box (younger readers may not know what a bread box is) he said that it contained some t-shirts that he was mailing to his brother.
Apparently, he had already been to the post office window in the lobby and had the package weighed because he told me it was going to cost $8.00 to mail it.
THE YOUNG man told me he had $3.00 for postage but needed $5.00 more and asked if I could help him with the postage.
After years of some bad experiences with downtown panhandlers, I developed a policy of never giving anyone a cash handout.
Although I told the young man that I would provide the $5.00 he needed to mail the package, I also told him that I would walk to the mailing counter and give the postal worker the money.
If he didn’t want me to do that, he was using the postage need as a scam to get money.
I figured that he would not accept that offer because he wanted the money.
I was wrong.
AS WE walked to the postal window to mail the package the young man thanked me while he talked a little about his relationship with his brother and how he had not seen him in quite-a-while.
When he gave the package to the postal worker behind the counter, she had a question about the address, which she and the young man were able to figure out.
She weighed the package and the postage was between $7 and $8.
The young man had $3.00 as he had told me and handed the bills to the postal worker as I handed her my $5.00.
THE YOUNG man told me that I would get some change back for my $5.00 but I told him he could keep the change.
Satisfied that the money I had used to help him out had been used for a legitimate reason, I started to walk away and head back to the newspaper office.
He turned to me and said: “Hey man -- thanks for helping me out. I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome,” I replied.
IT REALLY is more blessed to give than receive -- especially if what we give really helps people.
For many years, I would often give a few dollars to someone who was begging for money on the street.
Today, I never give cash directly to those on the street who ask for help. I make sure it is given directly to the person or organization that can give them some assistance.
When I’m asked for money for food, I usually offer to walk to the nearest restaurant and buy them something to eat. That way, I know they won’t use the money for drugs or something else.
THE CITY COUNCIL recently learned that most of the people on the street today asking for money are not homeless but panhandlers.
Due to the efforts of several local agencies, homelessness in Decatur is not that wide-spread.
We’ve learned that many of the panhandlers come to Decatur because they’ve heard our community is a good place to beg for money.
There are certainly far worse things that a community could be known for -- than having a generous heart.
The good hearted people of Decatur were among my thoughts as I walked back to the newspaper office, along with the hope that the young man’s box that I had helped him mail -- really had t-shirts inside.
An Encounter With ‘Mr. Lollygagger’
I DROVE this newspaper’s delivery van down to Billingsley’s BP in South Shores to fill the tank with gasoline Saturday and came back to the office mildly irritated.
It wasn’t anything that anyone who works for Billingsley did.
I like Jay Billingsley and the people who work for him. They’re great people and I purchase about all of my gasoline for my cars and van at his station.
ANYHOOO, I drove up to the second pump on one of the islands (there was a guy filling up his truck at the first pump) and starting filling up the van’s tank.
I finished before he did, went inside, paid for the gas, got a receipt and headed for the van just as he was coming into the station to pay.
I got into the van, fastened my seat belt, started the van’s engine and waited for him to come out and pull his truck away from the gas pumps so I could drive out of the station -- and kept waiting.
AFTER several minutes, when he didn’t come out the door, I thought that, maybe the guy had an emergency “call of nature” and was spending some quality time in the men’s room.
So I waited. It probably wasn’t his fault that something like that happened and I tried to be patient.
I really had no choice.
Another truck had pulled up behind me so I couldn’t move the van to even back out of the space!
AS I looked towards the windows in the front of the station, I could see the guy lingering around inside taking his sweet time -- looking at this and looking at that.
A few times he looked out the window and saw what a jam up he was causing but it didn’t seem to faze him.
It did faze me. I had to be back at the office to meet somebody and I didn’t want him to wait. I thought I had enough time to drive the van to the station and get back before my appointment arrived.
AS THE GUY kept lollygagging (I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before in this column) around, I could feel my blood pressure rising.
Then, Hallelujah! I saw him moving towards the front door, but, just as he was getting ready to come out, someone walked in he apparently knew, so he stopped to shake hands with the guy and do some serious chatting!
I didn’t look in the mirror, but that big vein in my neck was probably about the size of an air hose!
I REALIZE that many people would probably have climbed out of their vehicle and gone inside and asked the guy to move his truck so they could get out.
However, I believe it is never good to immediately confront any person who has just irritated the daylights out of you!
So, I decided to get out of the van while gabby lips was still shooting the breeze and talk to the driver of the big red truck that had my van pinned between the two trucks.
I figured, if the guy in the red truck behind me was 7 feet tall with a tattoo on his forehead that read “I hate everybody”, I would go against my own advice and confront Mr. Lollygagger who was still talking away inside the front door.
FORTUNATELY, to my surprise and relief, an extremely nice woman was the driver of the big red truck and I told her I didn’t know when the guy with the truck in front of me was ever going to come out of the station and asked if she would mind backing up her truck so that I could back out the van and leave.
She was very gracious and apologized for pulling her truck so close to the van.
What a pleasant person! I’m glad I talked to her instead of Mr. Lollygagger.
I THANKED her, and after she backed up her truck, I was able to back around and get out of there.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Lollygagger finally coming out of the door, but still standing and shooting the breeze with the guy he had met (what seemed like) four hours earlier!
I DON’T know who Mr. Lollygagger is and probably wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him again. His older pick-up truck appeared to have received good care.
Maybe Mr. Lollygagger is a really nice guy and didn’t realize what he was doing to those in line behind him. I’ll give him the benefit of doubt.
I am thankful that I was driving the newspaper van instead of “Christine”, my infamous possessed car that doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to “anger issues” and speaking its mind!
I REALIZE that, considering everything going on in our world today, this incident at a local service station probably doesn’t merit a column, but it’s the little things we encounter in life that are frustrating. I have the outlet of sharing such frustrating experiences with you -- and, now that I have, I feel all better now.
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Dad’s Lighthouse Still ‘Lights The Way’ For Me
ON A table in my office, only a few feet from the edge of my desk, is a special lighthouse -- crafted out of copper and created by my dad, Sam Osborne, when he was a teenager in the United States Navy in the late 1920s.
It was always in my parents’ home from the time he was in the Navy until he passed away.
The lighthouse is an enduring symbol, not only of my dad’s talent, but a “guiding light” in my own life.
DAD DIED in 2002 at the age of 92. Since mom had passed away eleven years earlier, the possessions in their home were left for my brother, Sam, and me to sort out.
My brother chose dad’s extensive tool collection, which was fine with me. I probably wouldn’t have known what to do with them.
Dad’s lighthouse and the table that I had made for mom when I attended Roosevelt, were about all that I wanted because both were important to me.
SINCE THAT day 15 years ago, the lighthouse and table have been in my office at the newspaper and I have glanced at them many times during those years -- and thought about the guidance my parents gave me when I was growing up.
Dad’s lighthouse was special to him all of his life because he created it during a time he was seeking a safe harbor for his life.
SEEING dad’s lighthouse often reminds me of the lessons dad taught by example.
Following are a few of the lessons that I saw my dad practice when I was a kid -- and I never forgot them.
• My dad would never accept any money for using his mechanical skills in fixing items for others.
If dad would have charged every time he fixed something for someone I would have been the son of a millionaire. Instead, he left me something even more valuable -- a lesson on using your God-given talents to help others because it is simply the right thing to do.
• My dad felt that anyone working for a company owed that company an honest day’s work -- and the company owed that employee an honest day’s pay and treatment of respect.
It was a pretty simple formula that worked his entire business life.
• When my dad gave his word it was an ironclad contract -- and I never saw him break it.
That’s the way a lot of agreements were forged back then -- sealed with a handshake. When my dad gave his word, it was as good as done.
• My dad went to work a lot of days when he wasn’t feeling well.
I could hear him shuffling down the hall as he was getting ready for work. Dad had to be really, really sick before he would miss a day of work.
• My dad always gave an honest answer to any question that he was asked, regardless of how that would make him look.
I don’t think it ever occurred to him to lie about something.
• My dad had little tolerance for people who talked “out of both sides of their mouth”.
When I was a kid he resigned from his dream job as vice president and general manager of a manufacturing company because the president (who was the majority stockholder in the corporation) refused to deal honestly with the employees in the shop.
• My dad never complained about his misfortunes, set-backs or infirmities brought on by advancing age.
He accepted them and always tried to find a way to neutralize them and keep them from negatively affecting his perspective on life.
THE OLDER I get the more I appreciate both my parents and what I learned from them -- and still learn from remembering their examples.
I’m also blessed with three great sons and I hope they’ve seen in me some of the lessons my father and mother taught me in my life.
On this Father’s Day, and all days, I’m so blessed to be Sam Osborne’s son -- and the dad of Kevin, Craig and Kyle.
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Just Wondering About Some Things...
• I WONDER why, when the “hit man” in movies attempts to use his car to push the intended victim’s car in front of an oncoming train, the victim frantically pumps the brake, or puts his car in reverse and floors the accelerator to keep from getting pushed onto the tracks and certain death? Neither works.
Why doesn’t the victim floor the accelerator and drive forward through the railroad crossing a few seconds before the train passes?
• I WONDER why, when I buy a Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Dairy Queen on my way to the office in the morning it costs $3.48, but if I buy a full order of Biscuits & Gravy, it costs $3.54 -- only six cents more? The Biscuits & Gravy order has two biscuits, sausage and gravy -- yet is only six cents more.
Either I’m getting a real bargain on the Biscuits & Gravy, or the cheese and egg market must be booming!
• I WONDER why, on the old “Everybody Loves Raymond” television series, they are always complaining because Raymond’s mom, dad and brother (who live across the street) are always coming into their house unannounced and making themselves at home.
Why don’t they just lock their doors? That would stop it.
• I WONDER why the paper sales receipts they give me in fast food restaurants are so long? I thought we were heading towards a “paperless” society.
I measured a receipt I received after buying two items at a drive-up window on Pershing Road the other day -- and it was 14 inches long!
Today, I picked up one item at another drive-through window and the receipt was nearly 11 inches long! I know, because I measured it when I got back to the office.
I wonder if meals at some of these fast food restaurants would be cheaper if they quit using so much paper!
• I WONDER if any person who walks slower than I do (I walk fairly fast) can make it over the crosswalk on Franklin St., in front of the post office. Even though the coast was clear the other morning when I started walking across, when the light turned green at Main & Franklin (two blocks away) it was only a matter of seconds before the cars were almost on me!
I actually ran to the side of Franklin to get out of the way and then made a “slow down” motion with both hands -- you know, like they do at race tracks.
I think at least one driver appreciated the gesture because he acknowledged the motion with a single raised finger. probably indicating my move was a “number one” idea!
I guess that’s what he meant.
• I WONDER if most officeholders ever consider anything other than raising taxes to solve problems?
• I WONDER if the “panhandler” who stopped me the other day to ask the time realized he was wearing a watch? Maybe he wanted a second opinion on the time.
• I WONDER if there will ever be a time when I stop wondering if everything is shut-off in my infamous possessed car “Christine” after I leave it parked and get inside my office?
• I WONDER what kind of a person “honors” each Memorial Day weekend by stealing some of the beautiful large flags in Graceland Cemetery’s impressive “Avenue of Flags”? Four were stolen Friday night and it has happened before.
Isn’t anything sacred these days?
• I WONDER why squirrels always run to the center of a road before stopping to see if any cars are coming? I asked Sparky (Decatur’s smartest squirrel) but don’t know if I will get an answer. It must be “squirreldom’s secret initiation ritual”.
• I WONDER how people live without a belief in God? I sure couldn’t do it -- especially with everything going on in the world today!
• I WONDER if I wonder too much.
(Posted from May 31, 2017 print edition of the Decatur Tribune)
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Welcome To The Age Of ‘Technology Rules’
MY I-PHONE talks to me.
My computer talks to me.
My car talks to me.
The list of “talkers” is seemingly endless. If I call a large company for information, a “robot” talks to me and informs me the call may be recorded for “quality assurance”.
I actually had one of those “robot voices” ask me if I was having a nice day!
WHEN I was walking back from the post office the other day I couldn’t help but notice all the people standing around near buildings, in the park, and on the street gazing into their IPhones. It was like a scene out of the “Walking Dead”, or in this case, “The Talking Dead”.
I saw a person standing on the corner of Main and Franklin who didn’t have a cellphone to his ear or in his hand.
He looked sad.
I didn’t know if he was sad because he was homeless or phoneless!
OBVIOUSLY, since I’m publisher of a newspaper I have to stay informed about the latest technology in order to stay competitive -- but, from a personal standpoint, there are aspects of the “newest and latest” that make me yearn, at times, for some of the old, simple ways of life that I fondly remember -- fond memories that time has enhanced.
I don’t want to go back...but...
HOW DID we function, or even survive, in those days when life seemed far less complicated -- and less stressful?
Let’s examine a few of the “primitive” ways we had to cope with life in the “Happy Days” of the 1950s before advanced technology when there weren’t any cellphones.
As far as our “cellphone” talking to us, we actually had a real person place our call back when I was a teenager.
We didn’t have a dial or buttons on our phone. We lifted the receiver and a live operator asked for the number we wanted to call -- and sometimes engaged in a few friendly words before getting our number.
INSTEAD of Facebook, we had the “party line” where four to six homes in the neighborhood had the same telephone line.
Although most neighbors indicated they never listened to other people’s phone calls, three or four clicks from phones being hung up, could be heard at the end of most phone conversations.
All the news of the neighborhood was on the party line and a few gossips on the line spread it throughout the community -- with a few embellishments, of course.
That was the way of life back then and it brings a smile to my face.
I DIDN’T have a computer to talk to me, or provide a mountain of information from around the world.
What I did have, when I was a teenager, was an old manual typewriter which I thought was great.
I never had the typewriter “crash” on me or the keyboard lock up causing the loss of everything I had typed -- or someone hacking into it for my bank account number.
My work was always there on a sheet of typing paper and the typewriter never talked to me -- although I talked to it quite often!
I’VE WRITTEN before in this column about my “possessed” car “Christine” and the weird things she does when I’m driving her.
My first car when I was in high school was a very used 1951 Chevy and there really wasn’t much to know to drive it. The dial clock never worked (it was right twice a day), it had an AM-only radio, no air conditioning and the very basic components of a car such as a steering wheel, clutch, brake and “foot feed” -- and it didn’t talk to me to tell me how to drive or I needed fuel.
MY PRESENT car, “Christine” tells me everything that is wrong with the car and messages me as if I’m too ignorant to know the car needs fuel or air in the tires, or there may be ice on the road because it is below freezing.
Yet, she can’t forward the digital clock one hour when Daylight Savings Time begins.
I know enough about the technology of “Christine” to use about 10% of everything on her. I think the other 90% is conspiring against me.
I AM usually a pretty mild-mannered person, not given to yelling or screaming, but, I’ll have to admit, when I spend a day battling the talking and messaging machines -- I just want to yell at them: “SHUT UP”!
From the March 22, 2017 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Random Thoughts From An Overworked Mind
• CHRISTINE, my possessed car, has been offered a job via the internet. The alleged “company” sent Christine a letter indicating that a background check had been completed on her and she sounded just like the kind of employee they would like to hire -- and she needed to respond immediately to the email. Hmmm. What kind of a background check doesn’t find out that she is a car? Now she is receiving emails from firms wanting to pay off her student loan for her, wanting to loan money to her and, if she fills out a survey, she can receive cash to shop at various stores! (I can’t wait until some online dating site contacts her because they have found her perfect match.)
• HAVE we reached the place in this country where it is okay to hate people who hate us? Doesn’t that make both sides haters? It sure seems that way to me. Hmmm -- haters hating haters because they hate! I never cease to be amazed by such actions.
• GREEN FLAG? I’ve mentioned how crossing Franklin Street in front of the downtown post office is often like walking across the track at the start of the Indianapolis 500 -- because the vehicles are moving north so fast!
This summer, I am going to mount a green flag on a stick and, as the traffic nears the post office block at what seems like full speed I’m going to wave it madly like I’m a flagman starting the race! If you happen to observe my flag waving, you may also see me being led away for “observation”!
• IF THE ultra liberal branch of the Democratic Party goes any further to the left, I wonder if they will run into the Westboro Baptist Church way out there in the extreme right field. Both seem to have a lot in common in an “extremely repulsive’ sort of way.
• NOTE TO TRUMP -- Winners should be gracious in victory and they don’t have to keep telling everyone how great they are. If the bragging continues, you may lose your “humility” award -- you know, the one that makes you extremely proud to wear...
• SMALL THINGS can make my day -- like turning on Main Street from Pershing Road and hitting green lights all the way through town, on through South Shores and out Route 51 to home. Sometimes, when that happens, I feel like getting out of my car and doing a victory dance right there on the highway! That just wouldn’t be dignified -- especially if I had that green racing flag in my hand!
That would probably get me another episode of being led away for observation -- flag and all!
• CAN YOU believe that one of the latest ideas coming from our state capitol is to charge businesses a fee for the “privilege” of doing business in our state? We ought to be paying businesses to locate here. Do we actually pay people to come up with these ideas?
• ILLINOIS’ credit rating is now the lowest of any state. The bright side is that we only have 50 states so we can’t go any lower. We should be thankful there aren’t 100 states in the union because you know where we would be ranked!
• SOME of you noticed the error in last week’s front page headline and let me know about it. The word “Controversy” was printed as “Controvery”. As any editor will tell you, regardless of how many times you look over a page before it goes to press, a misspelled word (even in a headline) cannot be seen until after the page is printed. Then it jumps off the page in big, bold letters!
Maybe I should have opened two cans of V8 last week -- one to drink when the Trib went to press -- and the other when I picked it up and saw the headline mistake.
• DOESN’T “freedom of speech” also apply to people we don’t agree with? It seems like a lot of people, on both sides of the political spectrum have forgotten that point in all of the madness of the present climate.
• I DID something Monday morning that I’ve never done in my life -- I shaved twice! I always shave and shower before heading for the office. Apparently, I had a lot on my mind as I was shaving the first time. When I finished, I applied more shaving cream to my face and started shaving again!
When the razor found no resistance on my face with the first stroke, I remembered that I had already shaved.
So, what did I do? With all that lather, I shaved again! (I only took one shower...I think.)
Oh well. The mind may have been overloaded that morning, but my face was the most clean-shaven of any man in Decatur!
Let’s keep the “double shave” between us -- just in case I might be led away again for “observation”.
I don’t think my “double shave” Monday morning will do anything to help me prove my “sanity”!
Can I take my shaving cream, green flag and V8 with me?
* * * *
'Fun And Games' With 'Letters To The Editor' That Appear In The Print Edition Of The Decatur Tribune
ABOUT a week before the November election I received six “letters to the editor” supporting the same local candidate on the same day!
The strange part (fun and games) of the six letters is they were all composed in exactly the same style and type font.
Also, although each one had a bona-fide name and address, the envelope that contained each letter had this newspaper’s name and address handwritten by the same person. (The same word was misspelled on each envelope.) The letters were all mailed at the same time.
Obviously, the same person typed and mailed the six letters to be published.
ACTUALLY, all six letters were published because they had valid names, addresses and telephone numbers and were checked.
One “writer” indicated that a volunteer for a candidate typed his thoughts on his letter and he approved them.
That’s understandable. We require letters to be typed, because we’ve gotten ourselves into trouble in past years by trying to read the handwriting of some people who send letters -- and coming up with words that previously did not exist!
CONTRARY to how some people believe this newspaper operates, all letters to the editor are welcome, whether they are written in agreement or disagreement with my own views.
Following are some guidelines to make sure a letter is published:
• KEEP letters to a maximim of one typewritten doubled-spaced page (8 1/2 x 11 page size). I’ve actually received letters to the editor that, when transferred to a newspaper page -- took up the whole page! Newsprint is expensive. Besides, the longer the letter the less people will read it.
• LETTERS from the same person will not be printed within thirty days of each submission. A few letter writers have submitted as many as three or four letters PER WEEK and get upset when only one is printed. The policy is no more than one letter every thirty days and most newspapers have similar policies.
• DON’T expect your letter to be printed in the next edition after you submit it -- even after a 30-day wait. Letters are printed in the order that we receive them -- and the length of a letter can also determine when it is published. Sometimes a more recent letter is printed first because it fits a space we have left on the page.
• WE WON’T print letters that are filled with profanity. I once blotted out the profanity in a letter laced with it -- and found out that it made absolutely no sense. If you can’t make your point without profanity, you should have your letter printed somewhere else -- probably on some of the social media sites. They don’t seem to mind. People write almost anything there.
• WE ALSO won’t print a letter that will get the newspaper and the writer sued because of false accusations about an individual or group mentioned in the letter. That’s just common sense.
• ONE OF the most irritating comments in any “Letter to the Editor” sent to me is “I dare you to print this,” or “Do you have the guts to print this?”
Any letter will be printed as long as it follows the policy I’ve pointed out in the earlier paragraphs. “Dare” statements have absolutely no impact on a letter being printed -- although once it is printed I may throw it on the floor and jump up and down on it a few times! (Just joking.)
• MAKE SURE to specify if the letter is to me, personally, or it is to be printed in the Tribune. Don’t write: “print if you wish”, “Not sure I want this for publication” or “I will let you decide whether to print the letter”.
Mark on the letter: “This is for the “Letters to the Editor” section.
• DON’T CALL or write me to complain that your letter got some negative comments because “it made me look stupid”. If you write the letter, you own the comments. I print what you send me. If what you wrote makes you look “stupid”, you did that all by yourself. (I know the feeling from personal experience.)
THE ONLY basic rule you have to remember is: send a typed letter, make your point in a reasonable number of printable words and sign your name, address and telephone number. When your letter is printed only your name and city where you live will be printed at the end of the letter.
We don’t print anonymous letters with names like “Concerned Citizen”, “Citizen Watchdog”, “The Truth”, etc. (or even read them).
IF YOU want your letter printed, have the courage to put your name on what you write.
After all, my name and photo (for better or worse) are on what I write in this column. That’s more than I ask of anyone responding to me or any other topic in the “Letters” section.
I look forward to receiving your letters. (You are not required to send a photo with what you submit.)
Reprinted From The Feb. 1st Print Edition Of The Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Earlier Letters Below...
Thoughts About Hazel And Fried Potato Sandwiches
I RECEIVED an interesting letter from Evelyn M. Taylor recently that stirred some memories about Hammond, hometown for the Bolin side of my family. It’s located along Route 36, about 16 miles east of Decatur.
Evelyn wrote: “I lived in Hammond until I went in the 7th grade.
“I went to school with Hazel Bolin. I think she was a sister to your wife.”
SHE continued: “I went to her house sometimes. Her dad, Mr. Bolin, would make fried potatoes and we would make fried potato sandwiches.”
“I’m visiting my daughter in Crossville, TN. My granddaughter made fried potato sandwiches. They were very good and brought back memories of Grandpa Bolin.”
WHAT MADE Evelyn’s letter stand out was mentioning Hazel Bolin -- and fried potato sandwiches.
During all the decades I’ve been editor of this newspaper, and the countless letters and emails I’ve received, no one has ever mentioned Hazel Bolin, or Grandpa Bolin’s fried potato sandwiches.
HAZEL Bolin was not my wife’s sister but my aunt. She was my mom’s sister and they were members of a large family of boys and girls -- and lived in Hammond.
I was only a few months old when we would drive to Hammond to visit the family. I’m told that Hazel would always pick me up and dance around the room with me and I would giggle and be happy.
I was too young to remember Hazel doing that, but she was so full of life and, from all I’ve heard, it seems like that would be something she would do.
ONE DAY, Hazel decided to go for a car ride with some friends and her mother was uneasy about her going -- and asked her to stay, but Grandma Bolin was always concerned when any of her children left home. She always worried that something was going to happen to them.
Hazel said she would be back soon, danced out the doorway, full of life and she and her friends drove off with sounds of teenage laughter filling the air.
LATER that evening, there was a knock on the door and, when Grandma Bolin answered, the man standing there bluntly told her “Hazel is dead!”
Maybe the man delivering the news didn’t know how else to say it, but it doesn’t take a lot of thinking to know how devastating that news would be to a mom and dad.
Their 18-year-old daughter, so full of life, was suddenly gone!
THE CAR that Hazel was riding in had been involved in an accident and she was killed!
I was just a baby and I don’t remember any personal details of what happened that day, but one day, when I was much older, I asked mom about Aunt Hazel.
She said the shock of hearing the news of her death was so severe to her mom and dad that the family worried about them -- especially Grandma Bolin.
Grandma Bolin refused to eat for weeks and was in despair for such a long time that it was thought she might die of a broken heart. She was inconsolable.
AS I WAS growing up, when we went to visit grandma and grandpa, no matter how long we stayed, Grandma Bolin would always ask, “Do you have to go? Stay a little longer. Don’t go.”
She never wanted anyone to ever leave. You couldn’t wear out your welcome at that home.
MY MOM, her parents, and all of her brothers and sisters have passed away.
Hazel, who died so soon is buried next to her parents in the Hammond Cemetery.
Whenever I see their gravesites I always remember the pain and grief Grandma and Grandpa Bolin must have gone through so long ago.
The inscription on Hazel’s tombstone reads: “Our Darling”.
IT’S BEEN a long time since those days when Grandpa Bolin made fried potato sandwiches and that scent came from the cookstove in the kitchen.
It’s been much longer since Hazel died -- and since I was a baby.
Over the years, I never fully understood the reluctance of Grandma Bolin to see us leave when we visited the home place -- until recently.
Now, I think she was afraid that if we left, something bad might happen to us, like happened to Hazel -- although she never mentioned it in those terms.
THIRTY years after Hazel died, we lost our daughter, Kimberly Kay Osborne, who was much younger than Hazel when she died.
A couple of sections away from Hazel’s burial place in the Hammond Cemetery is where Kimberly is buried in the Osborne family plot.
On her headstone, underneath her name is inscribed -- “Our Darling”.
I know my grandmother’s heart never fully healed after losing Hazel -- and I believe that’s true of the heart of any parent who loves and loses a child.
That child remains in a special part in your heart for the rest of your life -- along with faith and hope that you will see your child again in another time and place.
Posted From Print Edition Of The Decatur Tribune 1/20/2017
Memories Of The Home Where We Lived
I HADN’T driven by the house in months, but, for the first time since we sold it, I made a turn on the road that runs in front of it and drove by.
We had lived in the house for 38 years and last summer, we put it up for sale.
When my wife and I purchased the house all of the kids were home so having six bedrooms on two levels, and about everything else that came with a house nearly 40 years ago, made it an exciting move.
THE HOUSE had a lot of great features that we liked and it was located on a hill on a half acre lot with lots of trees.
That was a great location for a young, active family.
We purchased the house from the man who had built it after he and his family had lived there for several years.
We had graduation, birthday and holiday parties in the house over the years and never ran out of room.
We loved everything about it.
OUR SONS got their education in Decatur schools and then moved on and out of the house to higher education and their careers, got married and had kids of their own.
For a lot of years, there’s been just the two of us rattling around in a house that was much too large for us.
As many people do, we downsized and purchased a very nice home all on one level in a great new neighborhood and moved in last May.
The neighbors are great, although the demands of this newspaper have kept me from meeting very many of them so far.
AFTER moving, we put the home we left after 38 years, up for sale.
Long-time friend Carla Brinkoetter had it sold before a photo of it even appeared in a newspaper listing. That’s what I call quick!
Between the time the house was sold and the closing took place, I drove to the house every morning on my way to the office and walked through it to make sure that everything was okay.
Sometimes, an empty house can attract unwanted attention, but it is a safe neighborhood and the morning, and sometimes evening, stops were probably unnecessary.
ON THE final morning, before closing on the house, I stopped for one final look around.
I walked throughout the house for the last time and stood in the empty dining/living room combination.
I thought about all of the holiday family gatherings over the years with parents, my brother and others who have now passed on -- and felt a little emotional.
I knew that it was only a house of brick and wood, but it was an environment containing many good memories. THEN, it was time to go. I took one last look around, knowing I would never stand there again, went down the stairs, closed the door and stepped out to my car to leave for the last time.
As I looked up I saw the basketball hoop on the pole next to the driveway and thought of all the games that had been played there with my sons and others over the years.
I backed out of the driveway, as I had done each morning for nearly 40 years -- but this would be the last time.
I took one last look as I drove off and felt a little tug in my heart.
AS I drove by our former home for the first time the other day, I thought about all of the memories that had been made there and realized that those memories were not left there but they will be with me for the rest of my life -- regardless of where I live.
We recently celebrated our first Christmas in the new home and, for the first time in so many years, all of our sons and about all of their families were able to be there.
New memories were made to join the old memories from the other house.
AS FAR AS our former home, I couldn’t be happier about who purchased it and who will be creating new memories with a different family.
The new owners are a son and his wife, of the man we bought the home from 38 years ago -- and the widow of the man who built the house lives right next door!
The son is going to live again in the house he lived in when he was a kid!
I am so happy for them and pray the home will bring them as much joy and happiness as it did our family.
* * * *
Biscuits And Gravy, Wrong-Angled
Parking And Cow Gas
ONE morning last week, on my way to the office, I decided I wanted some biscuits and gravy for breakfast, so I drove to the South Shores Dairy Queen’s drive-through lane and ordered a full-order. (I was really hungry.)
I pulled up to the first window, paid for the order and then drove my car up to the second window to pick up my biscuits and gravy and...er...drove right past it, drove on through the parking lot and out on West 1st Drive and then onto Route 51 and headed downtown for the newspaper office.
WHEN I had to stop for the traffic signal at Wood Street, I looked over in the passenger seat, where I usually place a drive-through order and -- there was NO BISCUITS AND GRAVY order!
I then realized that I had forgotten to stop at the second window of the drive-through lane and get the order!
What a bummer!!!
I didn’t have time to turn around and drive back to South Shores so I settled for a couple of Fig Newtons that were in a desk drawer at the office -- but I sure missed that order of biscuits and gravy.
SOMETIMES, when you start the day off that way -- you just know it is going to be downhill from there!
Since I’m getting a little older in years, I began to question my mental sharpness because of forgetting to pick up my breakfast order until I told a few younger people about it and each one said: “I’ve done that!”
So, I guess it wasn’t an “age thing”.
BY THE WAY, I can’t understand why my extremely “possessed” car, “Christine”, didn’t remind me that I had forgotten my biscuits and gravy. (Maybe she thought it wasn’t a healthy breakfast for me.)
That car nags me about everything. What’s more important -- for her to tell me a tire is one pound low on air and it should be checked, or, that I had just made a fool of myself by driving past the second window of the drive-through lane and forgot my breakfast -- that I had already paid for at the first window?
I think the next time I stop to pick something up in the drive-through lane at that Dairy Queen, when they ask for my order over the speaker, I will ask if they have my biscuits and gravy that I ordered days ago ready for me yet!
• LATER that morning I decided to drive up to Taco Bell on Pershing Road (a weekly stop) to eat lunch.
After my experience at Dairy Queen earlier in the day, I decided to go inside and eat so I wouldn’t drive off without my tacos.
After ordering and sitting down to eat, I looked out the window onto the parking lot and some guy in an older van, pulled up in the angle parking spaces outside, using the wrong angle.
In fact, he had nearly parallel-parked across three of the angle-parking spaces!
What was up with that?
I thought maybe he was just dropping someone off, but he and two of his passengers got out and came inside, ordered their food and when they got their order they marched outside, got in the extremely-wrong parked vehicle and drove off!
Was there some good reason for parking that way, or, did he graduate at the bottom of his high school driver’s training class?
Or, was he protesting a Trump victory? I don’t know.
Considering the strange things that were happening last Friday, I thought maybe I had unknowingly stumbled into the “National Act Strange Day”!
• WHEN I got back to the newspaper office and checked the national stories that were coming through, I couldn’t believe the first few paragraphs from the AP story I read: “Despite strong opposition from farmers, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September that for the first time regulates heat-trapping gases from livestock operations and landfills.
“Cattle and other farm animals are major sources of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. Methane is released when they belch, pass gas and make manure.”
Well, I worked on a dairy farm when I was a teenager and let me wish them good luck in regulating cow emissions because when those Holstein milk cows heed the call of nature (which is quite often) nothing can stop them!
I realize the regulations are about heat-trapping gases at livestock operations and landfills, but, come on, it’s “udderly” bad publicity for the cows.
ACCORDING to the article, cows and other animals (but especially cows) contribute 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere.
In my humble opinion, that’s probably a lower percentage than what politicians release with all of their campaign promises and policies they heap on the American people! Control THAT!
There’s no doubt that, if cows are going to have their belching, gas and “making manure” regulated, they may be MOOOOOO-ving to Canada!
From 12/7/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Cubs’ World Series Win Brings
Memories Of Grandpa Bolin
THE EARLIEST memories I have of my Grandpa W. I. Bolin are of him sitting in front of an old radio listening to Chicago Cubs baseball games.
Grandma and Grandpa Bolin lived in Hammond, a small community about 20 miles east of Decatur.
My grandparents didn’t have a lot of money, but they always showered me and the other grandchildren with a lot of love.
Grandma Bolin loved to come to Decatur to shop -- and anyone headed for the “big city” usually had Grandma Bolin as a passenger because neither of my grandparents. on my mother’s side, had a car or even a driver’s license.
Traveling, especially to Decatur, was Grandma Bolin’s passion.
FOR GRANDPA Bolin, it was the Chicago Cubs and he listened to every game they played during every season.
In fact, he did more than listen to the games. He made out a scoresheet and, batter by batter, he recorded with a pencil, which he always sharpened with a pocket knife before every game, what every batter in every inning did the whole game.
For many of those years that I remember, he would sit at a small table in the corner of the bedroom and be the “unofficial scorekeeper” for the Cubs.
COUNTLESS times, when I stayed with them for a few weeks during each summer, I would see Grandpa Bolin, before the start of each game, take out a piece of white paper, that meat from the grocery store had been wrapped in, and, using a ruler, start marking the lines for his scoresheet.
When the game was over and the Cubs had lost, Grandpa Bolin would lay his pencil on the little table and say, “Those Cubs can’t play anything”, but he kept listening and hoping -- for decades.
ACTUALLY, Grandpa Bolin was alive when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908. He was born in the late 1800s in Missouri and, as a small boy, his family moved by covered wagon to the Hammond area.
I would sit on the front porch swing with him as he told me stories from his youth that really captured my imagination.
GRANDMA Bolin would sit in a rocker not far away, and would sometimes tell him “Now Will, why are you telling him all of those stories? You know they aren’t all true!”
Today, Grandma Bolin would be called a “fact checker”, but back then, I would believe anything that Grandpa Bolin said, since he was saying it.
I really loved my grandparents and didn’t even call them grandma or grandpa -- it was always “Mom Bolin” and “Dad Bolin”.
Although I was blessed with extremely good parents, I was also blessed with grandparents who loved their family members and showed it.
GRANDPA BOLIN died in the 1950s when I was a sophomore in high school and it broke my heart.
I was at the stage in my life where I didn’t want anyone to know that I ever cried (you know, real men don’t cry), but I couldn’t help it when Dad Bolin died.
When he died, it had been 50 years since the Chicago Cubs had won the World Series and he had listened to all the games from the time they started broadcasting them on the radio.
It would be nearly another 60 years after his death before the Cubs would win another World Series which, of course, happened last week.
WHAT HAPPENED when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in a stressful game seven, is something difficult to explain unless you have, or had, someone like Grandpa Bolin in your life.
All the tears I saw shed from so many fans, were not only because the Cubs won, but because the win represented something that completed “unfinished business” in families and they wished their grandparents, father, mother or other deceased family members were there to see it.
A LOT of family bonding is found in sports and sharing the love of the game or following and supporting a favorite team.
When the Cubs won last week, something happened that will never happen again regardless of how many championships the Cubs may win.
This championship brought a surfacing of emotions long held inside.
I’M SURE I will ride out to the little Hammond Cemetery where generations of my family are buried, and go to Grandpa Bolin’s grave.
As I stand there with my memories of Grandpa Bolin, I might even say out loud: “Guess what, Dad Bolin? You should have seen the Cubs play baseball this year. They won the World Series!”
I wouldn’t be surprised if, as the prairie breeze sweeps across the harvested fields, and through the cemetery, I might get the feeling that Dad Bolin already knows.
--Reprinted from Nov. 9, 2016 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
Millikin Football Players' Protest:
Message Is Lost In Method
I CAN’T remember anything that has happened in our community in recent years where I received more phone calls, emails and comments from angry readers, than I have during the past few weeks -- and it hasn’t simmered down.
Of course, I’m writing about the controversy involving the Millikin Big Blue football team and the disrespect that several players have shown towards the flag and the national anthem as part of their protest against racial inequality.
I CAN understand the players wanting to do something to “make a statement and take a stand” about their feelings and advocacy, but due to the public anger about their “method”, their “message” has been lost.
I really don’t hear much about the reason for their protest -- just that it is disrespectful towards our flag and national anthem.
Aspects of the protest, which includes a photo of one Millikin player standing alone in respect during the playing of the anthem at a recent home game, made news headlines in such places as USA Today, Fox News and other outlets and publications.
Millikin University lost a lot of credibility by allowing, and continuing to allow, the protest to define its “freedom of expression” environment even though the action has caused more harm than good -- not only to the university but to the community.
THE MILLIKIN administrators have indicated there won’t be any additional public statements made because, essentially, they have stated their position and it is not changing -- meaning they side with the students’ right to protest during the national anthem. I’m sure Millikin administrators hope the protest fallout will fade away in time, but, as long as this is happening in its football season, and then, possibly in its basketball season, it is going to be an open wound that stirs anger and resentment not so much against the football team -- but against the university’s reaction to it.
ACCORDING TO the Decatur Tribune’s Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara the Millikin football team appeared on the field for the national anthem during last Saturday’s out-of-town game and several Millikin players “took a knee” when the anthem was played.
Now, everyone is wondering what is going to happen at Saturday’s home game. The pre-game playing of the anthem may draw more attention than the actual game!
That’s the problem. This is not a one-time protest, but a continuing one.
MILLIKIN University is a great treasure in our community and has enjoyed widespread positive recognition over the decades of its existence.
Unfortunately, the outrage and strong public response to something deemed unpatriotic by many, that university administrators allow under students’ “freedom of expression”, has brought more negative attention to the college in a few days than years of positive news releases can combat.
I DON’T doubt the motivation on the part of the players to take a stand (or a knee) is the result of what they believe is an issue that needs attention.
I think the vast majority of Americans believe in “freedom of speech” and “freedom of expression” in our nation, but, I also think “wisdom and maturity” need to prevail in using such freedoms -- to make sure the message is not suffocated under a thick reaction of outrage.
It’s not the “message” but the “method” that has hurt this effort -- and damaged Millikin’s image in the community and beyond and the administration should have seen this coming.
CERTAINLY, an argument can be made that the men and women who have sacrificed so much over the years to give us a free country, where free speech and expression are blocks of our foundation, did so to make such protests possible whether we agree with them or not.
The point that is often missed in such arguments is that sacrifices for our way of life constitute a lot more than freedom of speech and expression, including responsible conduct.
We also have the freedom to use common sense, show respect for our nation, honor the sacrifices of those who have come before us, and express our views in a variety of ways that cause people to see and hear the message with clarity.
I FEAR the freedom to exercise common sense goes unused and unrecognized much of the time -- often at the college level.
I believe that is the case with the Millikin protest that has hurt not only the message, but our veterans, the university’s image and the community.
This column is not about the validity of the players’ advocacy, just the method used to draw attention to it and the failure of the university administrators to respond in a mature way with some “common sense” leadership that doesn’t stifle freedom of expression, but finds a better venue to express it.
--Posted on Oct. 28. 2016
From Crackers To Mysterious Voices In The Hallway
• DOES ANYONE else have a problem opening those individual two-cracker rectangular cellophane packages you get with soup or salad at a fast food restaurant?
I would consider myself of average strength but, unless I can start the tear exactly right, my soup is almost cold before I get the crackers in it.
That was my “before” experience with the crackers.
My solution? When I bring soup and crackers back to the office to eat, I have a huge scissors dedicated to cutting the end off of those packages. If you think that is a little extreme to open a package of crackers, it’s less messy than when I used a hatchet! (I’m joking.)
Obviously, this is a procedure that I only use in the privacy of my office. I would imagine carrying a large scissors into a restaurant and explaining that I was using it to open the crackers might receive big time attention from customers -- and the police!
Can you just imagine the reaction if I tried to explain that “I use the big scissors to open the crackers package for my soup!”
Congress would probably pass a law requiring scissors registration!
• I RECEIVED my car insurance premium for the next six months on my “possessed” car “Christine” that I’ve written about in this column during the past year.
Christine must have insulted the insurance company!
I think I will call my insurance agent and ask if that premium includes an exorcism -- for the car, not me!
Of course, Christine thinks she is worth a high premium rate.
• I WAS IN the drive-through lane of Dairy Queen one morning last week to pick up some breakfast to bring to work, when I tried to turn my car radio volume down, but it would not reduce in volume. (I thought Christine was messing with my radio.)
Finally, I shut it off completely, but the music continued!!!
It was then I discovered that the music was coming from speakers at Dairy Queen.
No wonder I couldn’t turn down the volume!
(Don’t tell anyone about this experience if you want me to continue as editor of this newspaper.)
• I USUALLY get to the office before anyone else.
When I started walking down the hallway to my suite, I heard voices coming from somewhere. I thought someone else had arrived at their office before I got to the building -- but, upon checking, there wasn’t anyone else!
I couldn’t figure out where the faint voices were coming from.
When I got to my office and grabbed my cellphone out of my pocket, it was then I discovered that I had a radio program playing on my phone which I thought I had turn off earlier when I left my car!
I was relieved to discover there was an explanation for “the voices” I heard.
(Don’t tell anyone about this experience, either.)
• I WAS DRIVING on Fairview Avenue one day last week, when a car came up behind me and was so close to the back of my car I could almost see in my rear view mirror whether the driver had flossed her teeth that morning!
I was driving under the speed limit and she stayed right on my bumper as she talked on her hand-held cellphone. (That’s illegal, of course.)
To avoid getting hit, I pulled my car to the side of the road and let the driver pass and, as she drove by, I don’t think she even realized that I was no longer in front of her because she was yapping away and flossing her teeth. (Actually, she wasn’t flossing her teeth. I just added the flossing part, because I thought it was appropriate.)
Let this serve as a warning: don’t talk on a hand-held cellphone -- or floss your teeth -- while driving.
• I WAS AT LaGondola on North Water Street the other evening, waiting inside for my order.
I couldn’t help but notice a woman whose car was in line at the drive-through window. Her car window was down and she was apparently talking to the person in the passenger seat. I noticed that she had her left arm out of the window and, as she talked, she was making all kinds of motions with it as if she was delivering a speech at a podium. I don’t know exactly what she was saying, but sometimes the arm motions were fast and sometimes they were slow and sometimes, her arm went limp.
Since that experience, I’ve noticed a lot of people who have their arm out of their car’s window making it a definite part of their conversation with almost constant movement.
I had previously thought that the only time some drivers used their arm to communicate was when they used one of their fingers to inform a driver who had cut them off in traffic on how they felt about it.
I don’t need to learn sign language to know what that gesture means!
Technology hasn’t change that sign!
--Posted From 10/5/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Show Respect For Our Flag, National Anthem
SHOWING a lack of respect for our flag and the national anthem at public gatherings is something that seems to be happening more frequently these days.
I hesitate to write something about it only because it draws more attention to it, but “respect” is something that seems to be in short supply among some in our nation these days.
It’s a root cause of a lot of our problems today.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has come under some harsh criticism in recent weeks because of his refusal to stand during the national anthem to “protest discrimination against people of color in the U. S.”
He has stated that he hopes his action will bring attention to police brutality and social injustice against minorities and indicated that he will start standing for the national anthem when the issues start to be resolved to his satisfaction.
(Did I miss him being named high holy emperor of the world, or some other lofty office?)
KAEPERNICK’S NFL career will probably be over (if it is not already over) before any of his royal decrees become reality, but, who knows?... if sitting, or kneeling, during the national anthem doesn’t work, he may even try something more aggressive -- like threatening to hold his breath until something he wants done -- is done!
Apparently, Kaepernick’s protest is catching on with a few other players in the NFL, showing their disrespect for the national anthem -- and at least one of the protesting players is taking a financial hit as a result.
LAST WEEK, a credit union that serves military families “ended its partnership” with Broncos’ linebacker Brandon Marshall after he knelt (and it wasn’t for prayer) during the playing of the national anthem at Thursday night’s season-opening game.
Marshall indicated that he was making a statement, like Kaepernick, and the Air Academy Federal Credit Union announced that it no longer wants to have Marshall as one of its ambassadors because of his disrespectful actions.
I guess the credit union made a statement of its own, which it is just as free to make as is Marshall to make his statement.
AS I’M WRITING this column, a few others players have also decided to not show any respect for our national anthem by sitting, or kneeling it out, when it has been played before the start of games.
It will be somewhat interesting to watch how many other players “take a stand”, I mean, “take a seat” before National Football League games are played during this season.
Probably, if the right to protest by exercising their freedom of speech starts hitting them in the wallet -- their “disrespect stance” may cool.
I think what bothers me about such “disrespectful” protests is that it is an indictment against a whole country, and its citizens, because of the deplorable actions of a few.
EVEN THOUGH players have the freedom to sit and not respect the national anthem, over the years that I’ve watched the national anthem played before NFL games, several of the players haven’t displayed much respect and they weren’t even protesting anything!
Those players use the time it takes to listen to the national anthem to scratch themselves, spit, chew whatever it is they are chewing like there’s no tomorrow, loosen up, check the monitors to make sure fans can see them and appear to regard respecting the national anthem as the most boring two minutes of their lives.
I STAND for the national anthem and highly respect the American flag as a statement of my beliefs and the exercise of my free speech.
I feel blessed to have been born and raised in the United States of America and I salute the men and women who have sacrificed so much, including great personal loss and even death, to keep this nation free, where all opinions can be expressed.
I STAND for those 99% who honorably serve in our police and safety services departments -- and for the countless sacrifices made by Americans in helping this nation become a better place for everybody.
I stand, not to ignore or minimize our nation’s problems, but because I know that citizens work hard everyday to resolve those problems.
I stand because I know there is plenty of “greatness” in America and I recognize the overwhelming goodness and promise of our national spirit.
* * * *
Old Columns Are Whispers And Shadows
From The Past
OFTEN, one of our readers, who has saved a particular “Scrapbook” article or found one of my “Viewpoint” columns especially interesting (it does happen) will send me a yellowed copy of the page explaining why it meant something when it was published years ago.
That’s what happened this week when Mike Isenberg, who now lives in Arizona, sent me a copy of my column from the January 1, 1992, edition of the Tribune.
Mike wrote: “The flip side of this article is about Boiling Springs Cemetery, where my Mom and Dad are buried. That's why I have kept this. I noticed this year end review is complete, and thought you might like to read it once more.”
SO... I took a few minutes to read my January 1, 1992, column and it took me back to a lot of “shadows and whispers” from the past.
There were several items about people in the column who have since passed away, including friends like mayor and state senator James Rupp who was ill and I extended my best wishes for recovery.
There was also a mention of long-time Macon County Clerk Bill Tangney, who had showed up at my office to thank me for asking readers to pray for his recovery several months earlier.
I quoted Bill as telling me: “I don’t have much money, but I have plenty of friends and that makes me a rich man.”
• ANOTHER item was from an 83-year-old woman who wrote: “I never met you in person, but I love your newspaper and I love you.”
I wrote: “Over the years this column has been the recipient of a lot of awards and, obviously, such recognition has made me feel good about what we do.
“Many of our readers express their love for this newspaper, and sometimes for its publisher, and the feeling generated by such kind words gives me a much better feeling than awards on a wall.”
• ANOTHER ITEM was about State Representative A. Webber Borchers who called and threatened to run me out of town after one of my first editorials.
Later we became friends and when I reminded him of how he introduced himself to me years earlier, he smiled and said “Yeah, I think my first judgment of you was right. I should have run you out of town like I said I was going to do!”
He was joking...I think!
• A PERSONAL ITEM in the Jan. 1, 1992 column stated: “When I started writing this column, my oldest son, Kevin, was only five years old.
“I guess one of the great benefits of this column is in being able to watch our family grow up over the years through the columns I’ve written about them.
“I’ve written about the kids involved in Little League and school activities, leaving home, going to college, getting married and starting their own families.
“This time last year my son, Craig, was in Saudi Arabia and I wrote several articles about my feelings in having a son so far away from home in harm’s way.
“A caller several weeks ago told me she had read the Tribune for over 20 years and although she had never met me, she felt she knew me and my family through reading the column.
“‘I prayed for your son every day he was over there, she said. “I don’t have a son, but you made me know how I would have felt if I had a son over there.’
“That’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve received as a writer.”
THE LAST ITEM in that column was this: “One of the questions that I’m asked the most is if I ever have trouble coming up with an idea for the column.
“Actually, with everything going on the column ideas are pretty easy to find.
“Besides, even though we only have one son left at home, and he will be leaving for college in the fall, I now have two grandchildren and that should be good for another 22 years of columns.”
I ENJOYED reading the Jan. 1, 1992, column for the first time since I wrote it nearly a quarter of a century ago and thanks to Mike for sending it to me.
Despite the fact that it has been nearly 25 years since it was written, my feelings about the people of Decatur and the many thousands of readers we have, are virtually unchanged -- as is the column style.
The “shadows and whispers” that can be found in old columns and past editions of the newspaper are familiar to me, because the names may change over the years -- but the people are the same great people that I’ve written about, become friends with, and talked to for the past half century.
MANY YEARS AGO, a reader told me that when she reads the Decatur Tribune, it’s as if I have come to her house in person and I am talking to her about Decatur at her kitchen table.
I love the people of Decatur and I hope to be able to show those feelings on the pages of this newspaper that has become my life’s work.
In many ways, I’m using this newspaper each week to pay a visit to your home or office and encourage you despite what is happening in your life.
The Decatur Tribune cares about you and our city -- and so do I.
(From the 8/24/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune)
Back When The ‘Work Ethic’ Was Taught By Example
MY FATHER lived through the Great Depression, when jobs were scarce, pay was low and he and my mother were barely able to get by during a very difficult time.
That was before I came into this world, but when I was a kid growing up dad never talked about those hard times.
However, what I did notice, even though I didn’t know what to call it at the time, was his work ethic.
MAYBE it was because my dad, and so many like him, knew from experience how hard life was without a job and that created a deep awareness of the value of work.
When I was growing up, my dad rarely missed a day of work and he was never late to his job because he always left home to allow plenty of time to arrive before starting time.
His work ethic was to give his employer an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.
I KNOW from observation that dad went to work many days when he was sick but he couldn’t imagine staying away from his job.
Dad spent most of his working years at Caterpillar in Decatur and, when he retired, he had risen through the ranks from the shop in Peoria to supervisor of planning at the local plant.
Anyone who knew dad appreciated not only his hard work, but his mechanical genius which helped him move up.
Apparently, hard work wasn’t harmful to my father. He lived to enjoy life and retirement well into his nineties -- and certainly taught my brother Sam and myself, by example, about what the “work ethic” could do for us.
I WAS thinking about my dad’s work ethic after meeting with three members of Grow Decatur last week, as I mentioned I had done in the City Beat column on page 1.
I believe, in my conversation with them, one of the major problems for our city (and a lot of other communties) is a lack of perspective on the part of no small number of people about what a work ethic can do to elevate their lives.
WHAT most people don’t understand is that Decatur, with one of the highest unemployment rates in Illinois has a lot of jobs available and few who can qualify for them -- either through a lack of desire to work, a lack of education or being unable to pass a drug test.
We don’t have an unemployment problem -- we have an unemployable problem!
That’s the challenge for Grow Decatur. The problem has been defined, the solution is the tough nut to crack.
(I also realize that we have many unemployed due to circumstances beyond their control and they are not the subject of this column.)
WORK ETHIC is defined as “a belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.”
I was blessed to have a father who understood that it took work to build a life for himself and his family.
Many others in my generation learned the work ethic from their fathers and mothers.
I thought it was interesting that, according to the Grow Decatur survey, the most dissatisfied residents of the city are those in the 18-22 age group.
If we lose them, either through seeing more opportunities in other communities, or failing to have the work ethic to prosper and succeed here -- we’re in serious trouble. They are this city’s future.
THANKS to the work ethic example of my dad and strength from my family and faith, I’ve always believed that I could do anything I set my mind on -- if I was willing to work hard to achieve my dreams and build a better life.
There are many young people who understand what the work ethic can contribute to making their lives a lot better, but we also have many who have not had personal examples to learn about work like I did as many of you reading this column also had.
DECATUR has an abundance of organizations and people who are helping, and who want to help, those who are looking for the opportunity to work and build their lives. The education is there, along with support.
Our city will become all that it can be when “work” is no longer a dirty four letter word but a way for a person, and a community, to be successful.
My dad taught me the “work ethic” and I’ve found success in his example -- all I had to do was work hard at it.
I guess it must seem old fashioned to write it -- but there really is no substitute for work in building a successful life -- and community.
* * * *
We’ve Gone From ‘High Pockets’ To
‘Pants On The Ground’
I WAS driving back to downtown when I saw a young man walking alongside the road with one of his hands plunged deep inside the front of his pants.
It’s a fairly common sight around our community.
Some of our readers have written to me, or called me about witnessing the same “fashion trend”.
THERE ARE variations of what the young man was doing.
Apparently, a young man’s hand can be either inside his pants or, in a more sanitized version, he can hold up his pants by grabbing the front on the outside.
I’ve seen a few young men with their hand holding their pants up when their pants were in a fairly normal position!
What’s that all about? Maybe they were “pants grab-trainees” who hadn’t quite mastered the technique.
I’VE OBSERVED a few young men with their pants so low (nearly knee level) that they can’t reach them so they have a hand inside their underwear!
If you or I did that, we would be arrested or taken for “observation”.
Some even wear a belt which apparently is useless because the belt is down around their knees along with their pants. I thought a belt was used to hold pants up, not ride down with them.
What’s that all about?
OBVIOUSLY, I’m a few generations away from some of the “fashion trends” of today, but I remember when I was in high school, there was a danger of some of the students wearing their jeans too high.
Remember when some students would be called “high pockets” because their blue jeans (is that phrase even used anymore?) and belt hit them about mid-way up their chest?
REMEMBER: “Hey high pockets! Pull down your pants a little. You’re shutting off your circulation!”?
Back then, some male students had a fear of their pants falling off, so they wore them as high as possible. That way they had a chance to grab them before they went all of the way to the floor!
Now, some young men wear pants that are halfway to the floor to begin with. Look how far our pants have fallen (no pun intended) in a few decades!
LIKE many of you I come from the generation where boys wore their hair in a ducktail style, or “Mohawk” (Is that politically correct today?) or the “buzz” when summer hit.
The hippy-style long hair came in the 1960s, I guess to show a “drop out, turn on” generation.
But, were talking about hair, not wearing pants that are about to fall off or walking around grabbing oneself in a socially-unacceptable place.
ALSO, what’s with the “underwear thing”?
I guess that’s part of wearing your pants real low, so that you can impress people with the color of your underwear.
Remember when we were in school and our moms always warned us: “Make sure you have clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident”?
Today, some mothers must be telling their sons: “Make sure you have clean underwear on in case your pants fall down!”
All I know is, that when I was in school, I would have been mortified if even a little bit of my underwear was showing and so would every other student at Roosevelt Jr. High or in high school.
BY THE WAY, most of the underwear that is exposed today doesn’t look anything like the underwear we wore back then.
Today, it looks like Bermuda shorts.
For the uninformed citizenry, maybe someone reading this can send me a letter or email and explain how all of this exposed underwear/ground hugging pants/crotch-grabbing trend started.
All I know is that it’s been hanging around (or not “hanging around”) for several years.
I ALSO wonder, since one arm and hand are being used to hold everything up, why not some other strange trend?
How about walking around with a finger up your nose to point to your brain, or a finger in your ear, to signify “I’m not hearing nobody telling me nothin’!”.
Some might say “that would be gross!” It wouldn’t be as gross as a young man walking around with his hand stuck down inside the front of his pants!
WELL, although I belong to a generation that doesn’t understand the underwear/low pants/strange grabbing symbolism, I guess guys could be doing something worse with that hand...
Remember when our generation used the expression “far out”? That’s now been replaced by “far down”!
Do you think our elders viewed us the same way in the days of ducktail haircuts and high pockets? Surely not!!!
Posted From 8/3/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Hatred? We’re Better Than That -- A Lot Better
THERE are some people who hate people who are different than they are or voice a different opinion than they do.
There are some people who hate most Republicans and there are some people who hate most Democrats and some people who hate the people in both parties.
There are some white people who hate black people and there are some black people who hate white people.
There are a few people who hate everybody including themselves.
However, the haters must not define what we are as a person and a nation.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
THERE are some conservatives who hate some liberals and have no problem in expressing that hatred time and time again on social media and in public forums.
I’ve read and heard outright hatred expressed for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton -- even to the point of a few demented souls wishing one or the other would die.
There is no such thing as a “righteous hatred” of someone -- it’s still hate.
It is the right of every American to support the candidate of his or her choice, but hating either candidate is not a part of the spirit that made this nation great.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
I’M NOT a big fan of President Obama, but I don’t hate him or wish any harm to come upon him.
Even though I disagree with him in several areas of leadership of the country, and don’t understand why he acts and reacts the way he does, I don’t come close to hating him or anybody else.
He is human like the rest of us, with a family he loves and who loves him, and he has one of the most difficult jobs anyone can imagine in an ever increasingly dangerous world.
Any American who hates President Obama, or our two candidates running to replace him, does not represent the America I know and love.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
OVER THE many past decades that I’ve published this newspaper, and the years I served in public office, I never fully understood “hate mail” and, when I received it, what bothered me the most was thinking about how miserable the people must have been who wrote such hateful words.
What they wrote was meant to hurt me but I hurt for them. What in life created such hatred that about every word they wrote was filled with venom?
Do we live in an America today in which strong disagreement ends up in hating the person who doesn’t agree with us?
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
TODAY, there is increasing hatred by some against law enforcement officers and in recent weeks police officers have been targeted and shot -- some fatally.
Only a fool would think that every single police officer in this nation serves with honor and enforces the law equally without regard to race.
However, the actions of the few, which reflect badly on law enforcement, should not create hatred towards all police officers even to the point that killing them is somehow justified.
No one who uses hatred to seek justice will create anything but more hatred.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
IT’S A tenant of my faith that my attitude towards others, even those who hate me, is not to hate them back.
Meaningful relationships and lives are not built on hate. Hate is a destroyer of understanding, not a builder.
Not only is it wrong to hate people, it diminishes the quality of our lives.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
I DON’T THINK there is much doubt that this nation is becoming more and more secular and God continues to be rejected and banished from so many areas of our nation that once embraced Him.
Some would argue that’s a good thing, but, in a world that seems so full of hatred these days, moving away from God is not the solution -- it’s part of the problem.
It’s not God’s love that is responsible for the condition of the world -- it’s people hating people, many times with a hatred that has lasted for centuries.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
JESUS taught that all of the commandments are wrapped up in two -- love for God and love for your fellowman.
He said if you can’t love your fellowman whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen?
When I was a small boy I heard that a famous mayor once said, “Every night I ask God to forgive me for my sins and I forgive everyone who wronged me during the day.”
I never forgot the lesson and did the same thing as mayor and still offer the same prayer as a newspaper editor and citizen.
LIKE everybody else, I am not a person without fault or sin, but I cannot bring myself to hate someone. I may not agree or like what a person does, but I can’t hate that person.
I believe there’s more than enough hatred in the world without me adding to it.
We need to stand up for what we believe is right, speak out on our beliefs and keep our faith...and not give into hate.
Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of people in our city, and in our nation, do not let hate control their view of others.
That’s because, in America, we’re better than that -- a lot better.
--Posted 7/30/16 from 7/27/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Spiderman, Christine And ‘Regular Fellows’
• ONE EVENING last week my right wrist started itching and when I looked down I saw that a sneaky spider had drilled me! (If it was a vampire, he had one fang missing because there was only one hole in my wrist.)
I figured the spider had read something I had written, disagreed with me and thought I deserved a bite or sting, or whatever spiders do.
It wasn’t long before I had a big red splotch a couple of inches in circumference. (I thought about coloring it and making it look like I was cool with a tattoo but figured some anti-spider cream would be a better choice.)
WHILE the cream was applied to my wrist, my mind began to consider the possibilities, like if I lost my arm, would subscribers understand if I reduced the number of pages in the Tribune to half, since I would only be typing with one hand?
Was the spider a messenger from God telling me it was time to retire?
Can spiders carry the West Nile Virus? (I had just received a news release earlier in the day stating that the virus had been found in Macon County.)
EXCEPT for “biting sarcasm” from a few readers, that was the first bite (mosquito, human or otherwise) that I had received in years and the urge to scratch it was almost unbearable, but I didn’t give in to spider bite scratching syndrome.
Coincidentally, one of my sons, who lives in another state, was bitten by a brown recluse spider a few weeks ago and had to get some medical treatment for it.
Craig knew what a brown recluse spider bite looked like because of his training of living off of the land as an Army Ranger in his younger days.
I knew the spider that got me wasn’t a brown recluse because I looked up a photo of a spider bite on Wikipedia -- the replacement for grandma’s remedy book.
AFTER a few days, the red area on my wrist started to fade leaving just the bite mark itself.
Why didn’t I go to the doctor or the hospital and get it checked out?
Easy answer: I’m a man and it is inherent in the gender not to seek medical attention for a cut or bite -- unless you have to be taken on a stretcher, or you have training to recognize different kinds of spider bites.
There seems to be only one lingering effect of my spider bite -- I can now climb the outside brick wall of the Millikin Court Building to get to my office on the fourth floor! (smile)
Just call me Spider Bite Man!
• CHRISTINE (my infamous possessed car) and I were heading north on Franklin Street when we had to stop at the intersection of Eldorado and Franklin.
One of those really big pick-up trucks with huge tires pulled up next to us and the music was so loud, plus the driver was gunning his engine, that my car was actually vibrating from the noise!
ALL OF sudden my radio speakers started blasting away “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys as loud as I’ve ever heard them and, as the stop light was changing from red to green, Christine took off so fast that her tires squealed leaving the big, black truck behind!
I became a passenger in what seemed like a driverless car -- except the car was driving herself!
Bad Christine!...Bad car!
No Pennzoil for you tonight!
• ONE OF OUR readers, bless his heart, called on Thursday (July 14) to complain that he was just then getting his July 13th edition of the Decatur Tribune in the mail.
What was a little strange about the call, was Thursday, July 14, was the day he should have received the Wednesday, July 13th edition because they are always mailed out on Wednesday!
We sometimes get calls from a few subscribers who say they didn’t receive that week’s newspaper, but I think this was the first time that someone called to complain because they had received the newspaper through the mail on time!
I remember one time a subscriber called to argue that Wednesday was Thursday and he should have received his Tribune like he does every Thursday.
I think we finally convinced him that it was only Wednesday and he would receive his newspaper the next day.
• I’M THANKFUL that our readers look forward to the Tribune each week and even want it to be there a day early!
I mentioned sometime ago that one of our readers told the mail carrier (who told me) that he waits on his Tribune to arrive on Thursday so that he knows when to go to the bathroom.
Hmmm. Maybe that was the reader who thought Wednesday was Thursday.
Maybe he just couldn’t wait another day for the Tribune to arrive for a very good reason!
I love our readers.
Posted from 7/20/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
One Year Following Mayor's Death
Memories Of My Friend 'Tuna'
It will be a year on Monday (July 17) since Mayor Mike (Tuna) McElroy passed way.
I clearly remember that early morning phone call I received from City Manager Tim Gleason and how I didn’t fully understand his words: “We’ve lost the mayor.”
For a few seconds I thought he was referring to something that had incapacitated Tuna and it would take him awhile to recover so we had “lost” his services as mayor for a time.
I guess that’s what the mind does in trying to react to terrible news.
However, it wasn’t a temporary loss -- Tuna had died at 63 years of age and out of what happened that Friday morning, I not only lost a good friend, but we also lost our mayor.
The city manager told me that he knew “the mayor” and I were close and he felt Tuna would want me to know what happened immediately.
Macon County Coroner Michael E. Day said later that the mayor, after being involved in a one-car accident, was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital Emergency Room by ambulance in full cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at 8:38 A.M. by Emergency Room physicians.
His death was listed as “natural causes”. It is believed he had a massive heart attack which caused the car crash on 22nd Street. Efforts to resusitate him were unsuccessful.
The community was plunged into mourning because Tuna knew so many people and was a well-liked mayor. His death sent shock waves through the community and, a year later he is publicly remembered in a variety of ways including a golf tournament that is being held for the first time this year.
Tuna and I were the two candidates who were elected to the city council in 2003. Tuna was sworn in as a councilman and I started by first term as mayor.
Actually, I didn’t know Tuna that well until the campaign and we started serving on the council together.
We became good friends in 2003 and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, he was my closest ally on the council.
We talked often about city business and the issues facing Decatur.
Tuna served on council during the years I served as mayor and we both won re-election to another term.
I could always count on Tuna to call me after a council meeting to discuss what had taken place that evening.
When I left the mayor’s office, Tuna was chosen in the next election to serve in the position.
When he came to my office to tell me that he was going to run for mayor, he indicated that, if elected, he was going to continue the projects we had worked on together.
Obviously, I supported my friend because of the experience in working those years with him and I knew of his love for Decatur.
That mutual love for Decatur was the bond of the relationship. When we were together we seldom talked about anything other than the City of Decatur.
The relationship didn’t change a lot once I left office and he sat in the mayor’s chair.
We would talk quite a bit about the issues confronting our community and, if he saw me taking a walk through downtown, he would pull over his vehicle, I would walk over and we would carry on a conversation about city issues.
When he came to my office at the Tribune over the years, we always sat at the round conference table and talked, both when I was mayor and then, when he was mayor.
On some of the projects that were started when I was mayor and he was a councilman, and completed or started when he was mayor, he invited me to the ceremonies to sit beside him and cut the ribbon.
“You did the heavy lifting,” he would tell me, but he gave me too much credit. Still, it was nice for a friend to remember me when I was no longer in office.
I talked with Tuna in my office only a few days before he passed away and I knew he was under a lot of stress -- and he knew that I knew because he watched me experience a lot of the stress that he was going through.
Before he left, he told me that this would be his last term as mayor because he knew some good things were coming for the city and he wanted to be there to help push them through.
His “last term” comment proved to be true in a way that neither one of us expected -- in a matter of a few days he passed away.
I think Tuna and I bonded even more after I left office, because we had served together and he knew that, since I sat in the mayor’s chair for years, I could understand his feelings and emotions from having experienced them myself.
During the past year there have been countless times that I’ve reacted for a second to someone honking his car horn at me while I’m walking to a location downtown -- and think it’s Tuna... and then suddenly realize that it couldn’t be, because he passed away.
I remember one evening, years ago, when I was waiting in the left turn lane at the stoplight at Wood and Main Street when Tuna pulled up beside me.
We put our windows down and talked between our cars like two teenagers in an old Steak ‘n Shake meeting when they had curb service.
There were no other cars coming so we sat through the stop light a couple of times and chatted from our cars -- and then when cars started coming behind us, we waved and drove on.
There have been countless times during the past year that I’ve thought about that encounter when I pull into the turn lane at Wood and Main to head home.
I’ve even glanced over from time to time to see who is in the car next to me, and of course, there will be no more such conversations with Tuna.
I miss my friend, but so do a lot of other people in this community.
Although I still love what I do and promote this great city, it took a little wind out of my sails when Tuna passed away.
I not only “lost the mayor” -- like many others, I lost a great friend.
Posted from July 13, 2016 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
A ‘Rose’ That Is Not Blooming On Water St.
I ARRIVED downtown very early one morning last week as I usually do on the day this newspaper is published.
In fact, even with the extended hours of daylight during summer, it was still dark outside.
As I was getting out of my car, I saw one of the “street people” moving across South Water fairly far away.
I DON’T know her name, (I call her “Rose”, at least in my mind) although I’ve encountered her many times over the years and, in the past, this morning she quickly moved away from me and headed on down the street, looking over her shoulder to see if I was still there.
She turned the corner by the Orlando Apartments, and onto Wood Street.
Like so many times before, she disappeared into the early morning as if she wanted to hide before the sun came up and shed light on what she had become in her life.
I don’t know how long she had been roaming the downtown streets that particular night -- maybe all night.
She needed money for drugs and she would keep roaming the streets until she had the money to buy the drugs she needed.
I FIRST encountered Rose several years ago when the Tribune office was on North Park Street -- next to Subway.
Rose stopped me on the way to the post office one morning and asked if I could spare her a dollar because she hadn’t eaten and was “so hungry”.
I told her I would not give her any money, but we could go into Subway together and I would buy her what she wanted to eat and drink.
As we approached the door to Subway, she kept on walking and wouldn’t go inside with me.
Maybe she was ashamed. Before I could tell her that I could buy her a sandwich and bring it outside -- she quickly walked away.
A FEW weeks later, I encountered her as I was walking through Central Park and she asked for money.
I made the same Subway offer I had made earlier and, this time, she did accompany me inside and she ordered a foot long sandwich with everything on it, plus a drink.
The Subway cashier later told me that, as soon as I paid for it and left, the woman immediately tried to sell the sandwich to other customers and, when no one wanted it, she was trying to sell it across the street in Central Park.
OVER the years, she has approached me several times in and around Central Park to ask for money.
I’ve tried to be sympathetic and advised her about local services (a few only a block or two away) where she could get help -- and even offered to walk with her there, but Rose wasn’t interested in any help -- just money.
When I asked her first name, she wouldn’t say, and as I talked to her, in as understanding a voice as I could, and told her that she deserved a better life than what she was getting on the streets -- and there were people in Decatur who could make that happen, she walked away.
She just needed drugs -- that’s all.
ALTHOUGH I’ve seen her downtown asking other people for money, she heads the other direction when she sees me coming, except for one time, when she must have been really desperate because she asked me for money, adding: “I have cancer and I only have a short time to live.”
When I told her that she really needed help and I could help her find the people who would help her if she let me, she asked, “Are you going to give me any money? That’s all I want.”
She then walked away.
OVER the years, I’ve written about some of my encounters with people like Rose and, except for one gentleman who did get his life straightened out because of those who cared about him, they continue to walk and beg and live for the next fix.
Rose hasn’t approached me for a long time and when I saw her on Water Street that early morning last week she moved away quickly. She knew all I wanted to do was help her and the only help she needed was money for the drug habit that has destroyed her life in more ways than I will can ever imagine.
ROSE is somebody’s daughter. She may be a wife, mother, grandmother, sister...I don’t know, but she belongs to somebody. I’m sure that a lot of family ties have been severed due to her addiction and maybe no one cares any longer what she does with her life.
All I know for sure is that God loves Rose and cares about her, like He does all of us, even when we’ve made bad decisions in our life and stumbled and fallen.
God knows there is a “Rose” that is not blooming on South Water Street and may be roaming downtown at night -- but she doesn’t roam alone, even though she may not realize it.
Posted 7/8/16 from print edition of Decatur Tribune.
* * * *
Cars Are Getting Too Complicated To Drive
WHEN I WAS a kid, there was an elderly member of an area church who allegedly bought an automobile after spending his life up to that point, driving horses.
It was said, and I never heard the man deny it, that when he drove his new automobile home to park in a shed, that he drove inside the shed, yelled “WHOA!” and ran through the back wall of the shed!
That was when Brother Noah Smith of Sullivan learned the difference between driving horses and driving a car.
THE STORY about Brother Noah Smith’s first encounter with the automobile generated a lot of laughter and head shaking over the years -- and may still be part of a conversation every now and then.
However, the older I get and the more advanced our society becomes, I’m beginning to understand and be more sympathetic to Brother Noah’s difficult transition from horse to car.
I’VE WRITTEN in this column before about some of my experiences with my infamous car “Christine”, that, with all of its instrumentation, has made driving my car much more difficult.
Newer cars seemingly have more “buttons and whistles” on them than the cockpit of a passenger jet!
Christine has provided several embarrassing moments for me during the couple of years since I purchased her and I’ve documented those incidents in this column at different times.
The car seems to be “possessed”.
INCIDENTS such as Christine dropping dead in the middle of a parking lot (she had to be towed and resusitated by a mechanic) to attracting the attention of police and fire personnel because she started up on her own (I know I shut the engine off) and kept running in the street in front of the office building, make me unsure of what she may do next.
Then, there was the incident in the drive-through at a fast food restaurant on Pershing Road and....I think you know Christine’s “moody reputation” by now.
THE INFORMATION she tells me while I’m driving down the road (she even shuts off the radio so she can talk) is useless (at least to me) plus she’s got a real bossy voice!
I fondly remember the old days when I could take a drive to relax with the windows open, the wind blowing through my hair and the radio playing my favorite songs.
That’s why I love my classic Corvette. I drive it. It doesn’t drive me!
TODAY, I have countless radio stations to pick from (even a service that is willing to charge me $19.95 per month to offer me even more) and I’ve selected a couple of local stations because of how complicated it is to find any others.
I still have hair to blow back, but I don’t open the windows in the summer because the air conditioning (I know how it works) feels so much better.
I have a sun roof which retracts at the push of a button, but I’ve only opened it once -- to see if it worked.
I ACTUALLY love my car but I think it is a one-sided romance. I really don’t know much about “Christine”. I’ve mastered the air conditioner, heater, shift, accelerator, brake, windshield wipers, turn signals and a few other other services to make my life better.
I don’t know what purpose everything else on the car serves -- and I don’t care.
I’ve mastered the fundamentals to get me to and from a destination like I’ve always expected a car to do. I really don’t need the other “distractions”.
TODAY’S CARS have become entertainment/communication/yippy-yap centers.
We even have cars today that can drive themselves! Hopefully those robot cars don’t develop road rage with passengers on board.
I’ve had people tell me to read the owner’s manual to find out what all “Christine” can and cannot do.
Are they kidding? The owner’s manual is as thick as the Bible!
Besides, I’m a man and real men never read directions for anything -- at least that’s what I heard from a real man.
I’VE DECIDED to become more technology savvy with my car, you know like a three year old kid is smart about such things. (Interestingly, the only people who understand today’s technology are too young to drive.)
I’m going to train “Christine” to stop by my voice command. You know like “Stop. Go. Sit. Stay.”
That way, the next time I pull into my garage I’m going to yell “WHOA” in tribute to Brother Noah Smith who was obviously ahead, not behind, the technology curve.
I’m sure Christine will obey my command and stop, aren’t you?
* * * *
Observations On Two Places,
Five Unnamed People
I STOPPED to pick up an item at a local service station/convenience store on the city’s south side early one morning last week.
When I pulled into a parking space, I saw that two police officers had two young men handcuffed.
One officer was using one of his hands to hold one young man’s arm, while he used his other hand to check his pockets.
A short distance away, the other officer was processing the other young man in exactly the same way.
I WALKED past the officers and young men as I was heading to the door of the convenience store and I overhead one of the young men ask, “Don’t I have the right to free speech?”
He must have been responding to something the officer had told him, but I don’t know for sure because that was the only part of the conversation I heard.
When I got inside I asked the cashier what was going on outside.
She replied in one word: “drugs”.
WHEN I walked out the door and headed to my car, I again walked by the officers and the young men.
This time, I heard the same young man I had heard earlier say: “I’m not going to jail,” with a voice that sounded like he feared that happening.
I got into my car and drove off, catching another glimpse in my rear view mirror of the two officers -- and two young men with uncertain futures.
AS I GROW older it bothers me even more to see young men with the opportunity to be whatever they want to be, apparently throwing their lives away because of some wrong decisions.
Drug usage has become an epidemic in Decatur and across the nation and it’s leaving so many destroyed lives, families, and potential, in its wake.
If that was what was really happening to these two young men -- what a shame and what a waste!
AS I DROVE on towards the newspaper office, I also thought of the police officers who were processing the young men and how often they get little or no respect.
I’ve always felt our police department is the finest anywhere and while that judgement may be somewhat due to knowing so many of them over the years, it is also backed up by the positive statistics of crime reduction in our community.
May God bless them and their efforts -- and keep them safe as they keep us safe.
LATER THAT day, I paid a visit to the Secretary of State’s Driver’s License Facility on North Woodford.
Fortunately, I noticed that the sticker on the license plate of our newspaper van expired this month and, unlike earlier this year, when I had to pay a fine for not noticing the sticker on my infamous car “Christine” was due (the car didn’t warn me), I was much more aware of “sticker shock”!
I DON’T know anybody who gets up in the morning all excited because they have to go to the driver’s license facility for some reason. (Tooth extraction may be looked upon more favorably.)
When I entered the door of the facility, the line that I had to join to reach the person who could help me, looked like the TSA lines at O’Hare in Chicago that I’ve been seeing on television news lately!
THERE is a lot of “line bonding” that goes on when you are in a long line for the same reason everyone else is in the line and most of the people seemed pretty patient -- unless someone came into the facility and tried to crowd into the line.
He was told where to go immediately -- THE END OF THE LINE!
It seemed to me the facility was understaffed (there were a lot of numbered counter openings with no one working there) and I attributed that to no state budget and department cuts coming out of Springfield.
I’M SURE there’s a lot of stress and uncertainty on the remaining staff in handling so many people.
After what seemed like forever, I finally made it to a counter opening at the west end of the facility. (I think it was number 2, but not sure.)
The state employee who helped was the picture of calmness, friendliness and help and, after dealing with her, I left the facility with a very positive feeling.
Despite everything going on at the state level, she gave great service!
AS I move through our community each day, I observe a lot “unnamed people” experiencing different circumstances -- like the five I mentioned in this column.
I see some bad and some ugly, but I see far more good and beautiful in the people of Decatur, Illinois.
I’m proud to live and work here -- and feel the spirit of this community.
--Above article posted 6/3/16
Lunch Yields Study On Trash Receptacle Behavior
IT WAS lunch time and I pulled into the Taco Bell on East Pershing Road, went inside, bought my lunch and sat down in a booth in the southwest corner of the restaurant.
It was the beginning of an interesting lunch, although I was alone.
Located on the other side of the huge glass windows, and only about six or seven feet from where I was sitting, was a trash receptacle.
THE TRASH receptacle was part of the drive-through lane so that, when someone had a wrapper or something else to throw away, he or she could stop at the receptacle and drop the trash without even getting out of the car.
It’s not even a long reach from a car window. It takes no effort and only about a second or two to use.
HERE’S the interesting part of my lunch besides the great tacos.
I started watching how many drivers stopped at the trash receptacle and made a “deposit”.
During the 15 or 20 minutes that I was eating lunch, most of the drivers who received their orders at the drive-through window kept on driving.
Either they did not have any trash, they were taking the trash home with them, or they didn’t see the trash container -- which, if it was the latter case, with such poor eyesight they shouldn’t have been driving a car!
WHAT I found most interesting in my “lunch research project” (not government funded) was the kind of vehicles people drove who did or did not use the trash receptacle.
A young guy who was driving a car that looked to be in such bad shape that I was surprised it made the trip through the drive-through lane, stopped the car (the brakes still worked) and carefully threw his trash into the receptacle.
Good for him!
The condition of his car did not reflect on his concern about putting his trash into the proper place and not leaving it strewn all over the drive-through lane.
Besides, maybe, because of financial problems, the old car was all he could afford.
THE OTHER extreme of what I had witnessed with the young guy in the old car happened a short time later with a middle age man driving an expensive fairly-new blue car with a darker blue roof covering.
He pulled up to where it appeared he was going to throw something in the trash receptacle and then, within a foot of the receptacle, he dropped his trash on the ground next to it!
(I assume, with shot accuracy like that, he didn’t go to college on a basketball scholarship!)
THE MAN in the blue car then drove off as if nothing had happened -- leaving his trash on the ground.
The man may have been driving a big expensive car, but the sensitivity to littering part of his brain was nothing but a junker with bald tires!
Of course, no conclusion should be drawn about those two people as setting some kind of a standard.
People who litter come in all sizes, shapes and forms. Littering crosses all economic boundaries.
I’m just reporting two examples.
OVERALL, during the time I was eating my lunch, I found, of those people who needed to throw out trash from their vehicles, most of them made a conscious effort to put their trash inside, instead of outside, the trash receptacle.
I know that Taco Bell and other fast food restaurants have employees who clean the trash out of the drive-through lane and that was starting to happen before I left Taco Bell.
However, I think, knowing that your trash will be cleaned up my someone if you throw it on the ground, should not be an excuse for littering. Depositing it in the trash receptacle is a solid habit and great example to young children.
THE WORST offender of throwing trash on a drive-through lane, is the person that starts throwing trash out of his car before he ever gets to the window to get his order!
That’s “imported trash”!
Don’t we have enough imported products without “importing” trash?
Recently, when I was in a drive-through lane, a young woman started throwing trash out of her car before she got to the window to pick up her order and I had to wonder if she had picked up all of that trash at other fast food restaurants and was leaving all of it at this location!!!
I KNOW we have a lot more important issues to confront in our community today, but not littering is something that should be as easy as breathing.
Besides, if you throw your trash in appropriate receptacles you don’t have to worry whether there’s a newspaper editor in town that who be watching you and is going to write about you in his next column!
Beware if you litter!
You have been warned!
The Tribune Taco Trashman may be watching you -- and your trashy ways in the drive-through lanes of Decatur.
Schoolhouse, Records Vanished From The Prairie
LAST week, this column was about the one room country schoolhouse that I attended for the first four years of my formal education.
I shared some memories of what it was like to be taught in a remote location on the Iowa prairie in a building that had one teacher for 23 students and eight classes -- all in one room,
There was no indoor plumbing, no electricity at first, and during the four years I was there, we went through several teachers who left because they couldn’t stand the isolation and, to a certain extent, the students.
THE REACTION to the column was substantial, with some of our older readers indicating they also attended a one room schoolhouse when they were kids.
Since it has been a long time ago when I attended that one room schoolhouse and left all of my friends there when dad’s job brought him back to Illinois, several readers asked if I ever had any contact with Center School or any of the students in the years since I attended there.
Only once -- and that was for a very brief time.
MY WIFE and I were driving back to Decatur from northern Illinois one day about 30 years ago when I decided that I wanted to take a detour and go back to where I attended Center School near Hiawatha, Iowa.
When we got there a lot had changed in the area, but I managed to find the place where the schoolhouse had once stood. (I think the schoolhouse had been demolished many years earlier.)
The land had been returned to farm ground and there were tractors in the field just as they were on a lot of days when I looked out the schoolhouse windows and saw them there.
It was like the setting was the same but the schoolhouse had disappeared!
I STOOD at the fence that was at the edge of the field that looked to be the same that was around part of the schoolhouse grounds.
Then I remembered that one of the girls in my class so long ago, lived about about a mile north of the school.
I figured the odds of her family still living in the farmhouse, after all of the years that had passed, was remote.
But, we drove the road leading to the farm house. I got out of the car and walked up to the porch and knocked on the door, not knowing what to expect.
I WAS somewhat shocked when the girl’s mother, who was still living there, answered the door.
I explained who I was and that I had attended Center School with her daughter many years earlier and was wondering what she was doing now.
The mother lowered her voice to a whisper and said, “she’s here but she’s not well.”
She asked me to come in and see her.
My classmate from so long ago was wearing a bathrobe and sitting in a rocking chair. It was obvious, at least to me, her condition was not physical, but emotional, because she appeared to be someone who had experienced severe mental anquish.
I ASKED her if she remembered me from Center School so long ago and she managed to smile and say, “I do remember you.”
She asked where I lived and what I was doing, but didn’t say much about her own life when I inquired.
After a ten minute conversation I told her (and her mother who remained in the room) that I needed to be going.
As I walked back to the car, I wondered what happened in the life of the sweet little girl with the pigtails from my first grade class in Center School.
That “reunion” bothered me for a long time after it happened.
ANOTHER 15 years passed and with the advent of the internet, I searched for information about Center School and those who attended there, but drew a blank.
I even called the Hiawatha Library and the librarian did a search of their files but did not find any record of the school.
I checked with the school district offices where I thought the consolidation of schools had taken place, but still found nothing.
WRITING THIS column has stimulated me to try again to do research on the school and maybe, with advanced search engines in place I might find something.
Plus with the thousands of people who read this newspaper in print and online, maybe someone will know something about the school.
Unless that happens, the one room Center Schoolhouse (and the records of its students) is lost forever to the prairie winds that blow over the rural site.
The One Room Schoolhouse On The Prairie
WHEN I was a kid ready to enter first grade, my dad accepted a temporary position with LaPlant-Choate Manufac-turing Co. in Iowa.
So, my parents packed our possessions in an 8’ wide by 19’ long house trailer (as they were called back in those days) and, along with my brother, Sam, and myself, left our home in Illinois and headed for a trailer park in a rural area of Iowa.
For the next four years, Hiawatha Trailer Court was our home.
MY FORMAL education started in the one room country schoolhouse that I attended for four years in Iowa before consolidation eliminated such buildings in most areas of the nation.
Center School, out in the middle of nowhere, had 23 students in its single room with no indoor plumbing or any running water on the premises -- just like our trailer home.
One teacher taught all eight grades in the building. Some of the grades had only one student, which meant you were at the top of your class -- but also at the bottom of your class!
Whenever the teacher wanted to teach an individual grade, she would have the members of that class move to the front row of the room and she taught lessons specifically for that grade but the rest of us heard all of the lessons, too.
THE ONLY water source we had was the well of a farm house that was a half mile away.
Two students were chosen to carry the milk can to the farm each day and bring back water. It was always a treat to be selected for that job during a sunny day.
During the snow and cold of winter, we would go outside and play in the snow at recess. When we came inside we would put our coats and gloves next to (and sometimes on) the pot-bellied heat stove and the scent of very hot fabric permeated the building the rest of the day.
Of course, there was no telephone or other means of communication in case of an emergency. That made the teacher responsible for everything that happened during the school day in that remote setting -- including medical emergencies.
TEACHING in that environment had to be torture for some of the teachers. During my four years there, several teachers quit because they couldn’t stand the isolation from other adults.
A few of them would spend recess and lunch time, sitting on the front step of the school building and crying.
We always wondered how long it would be before another teacher would decide to leave us or when she would have her first public cry from the stress.
We were kids. It was hard to understand why an adult didn’t want to be around us.
MY FAVORITE teacher was Mrs. Teidamann, who had a special love for children and we felt it.
All these decades later, when I think back to Mrs. Teidamann (who taught the longest period of time at the school before she retired and I didn’t see her cry even one time) I think of the patience and endurance she had with what one teacher called “savages”.
I learned a lot during those impressionable years attending Center School and there was real bonding with the other students. Almost all of the parents were involved and gathered on the school grounds for potlucks and other occasions.
I KNOW that we live in a different era and kids today probably get tired of hearing older people talk about how things were when they went to school.
But, sometimes, I have to smile and shake my head when I hear a student complain about his school computer not functioning properly, or he doesn’t like the school lunch menu, or the dress code is bad, or he (she) is irritated by several things at the school he attends.
It really is hard for today’s student to understand what it was like in a one room schoolhouse so long ago.
There’s been so many advances to improve our schools and the learning tools that are available are almost without limit.
THE LESSON I learned at Center School, especially in looking back, is that in the most spartan environment teachers can teach and inspire and students can learn and be inspired to be whatever they want to be in life.
There were a lot of tears shed by my fellow students (and a few by me) when, after four years, we loaded up the house trailer and pulled out to head back to our home in Illinois.
The following year Center School closed and the building was demolished -- but the memories of that experience, and what I learned there, remain fresh.
Center School and Mrs. Teidamann will be with me all of the days of my life.
--Posted 5/13/16 from print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
‘Old Decatur’ Has Vanished Right Before My Eyes
LAST WEEK, when I was writing this column about the closing of Haines & Essick, the last of the big downtown Decatur stores, it dawned on me that about all of the retail stores and restaurants that were downtown when I started in business in the mid-1960s have disappeared into pages of Decatur history.
Maybe that’s the reason there is a particular sadness about the Haines & Essick closing.
MY long-time friend and retired downtown bank president Ron James started working downtown about the same time I did.
A few years ago, Ron brought a graphic to my office that gave a view of all the stores in the downtown area years ago.
The graphic showed where they were located and I was simply amazed at the huge number of stores that called downtown Decatur home.
CONSIDER for a minute. someone who grew up in Decatur and left following his graduation from high school in 1960 and did not return until now -- 56 years later.
He would find the downtown that he knew in 1960 has disappeared!
He would probably wonder why the Transfer House is in Central Park instead of Lincoln Square.
What happened to the Stephen Decatur High School he attended and the Carnegie Library?
WHAT happened to the ornate Millikin Bank building on the northeast corner of Main and Water streets?
In fact, what happened to Millikin National Bank and Citizens National Bank and First National Bank?
All have different names today.
WHAT HAPPENED to the Steak ‘n Shakes on North Main and East Eldorado locations?
They moved to other locations on Pershing Road, Forsyth and on the east side of Decatur.
What about Walgreen’s at the corner of North Water and William street with the mezzanine snack bar?
What happened to The Wayside Inn, Blonde Belle’s and The Surrey?
WHAT about Kresge, Woolworth, W. T. Grant, Newman’s Penney’s Decatur Dry Goods, Block & Kuhl, Montgomery Wards, Sears, Staubers, Linn & Scruggs, Decatur Trunk, and a hundred other once familiar places downtown?
All gone and those of you reading this column can name many more stores and restaurants downtown that were so familiar to you that have disappeared.
I’ve only scratched the surface on what is gone.
I CAN see how someone who left Decatur in 1960 and just came back for the first time for a visit would be shocked at what he sees -- or doesn’t see.
There have been very few days during the half century since I started this business that I have not been downtown -- because I work here.
Today, I look out my office windows and see a very different downtown than I saw in 1964. The downtown of 1964 has disappeared forever.
DOWNTOWN is a very attractive area and looks to a great future. I was a part of that change through the Tribune and serving as mayor -- and I am happy to still work here in a different era.
However, there are times that I can hear whispers and glimpse shadows of the people and places of the downtown I knew as a young man.
Not only have so many familiar businesses and buildings disappeared, but so have many associates and friends I worked with over the years.
NOW, I am no longer the young man who fell in love with downtown Decatur many decades ago and built my career and life in this community.
I am one of the fortunate people who knew a different Decatur back then and my life has been blessed in so many ways by that experience and the people I met along the way.
I am also one of the fortunate Decaturites who feels the future of our city is bright because there are a lot of young people investing their lives and ideas in a new Decatur.
I am extremely proud of this city, not only for what we once were, but what we are working to build for the new Decatur.
--Posted 4/30/16 From 4/27/16 Print Edition of the Decatur Tribune Newspaper
Haines & Essick Was More Than A Downtown Store
THE announced closing of Haines & Essick in downtown Decatur has caused a lot of people to mourn its passing.
The rumor had been out there for a long time that it might close, but to hear the words that a business, which has been downtown for 114 years, is closing its doors is sad.
I talked with Sue Miller, director of retail sales for the business, on Friday and she confirmed that, after a “Going Out Of Business” sale, the doors will close.
HAINES & ESSICK has been in business since anyone living can remember and it’s the last major downtown retailer to close its doors from an era that saw many major retailers located in the core area. Raupp’s Shoes, Del’s Popcorn and Flora Jewelers are the only retail businesses (that I can think of right now) that remain from a long ago era.
There was something special about the store and the customer service that it provided over the years.
I’ve spent about all of my business career downtown and Haines & Essick has always been a familiar part of the area and I will miss its presence.
LAST WEEK, I recalled how I started my broadcasting career at WDZ when I was a teenager in 1960.
It was also at this time that I wanted to start publishing material.
There weren’t a lot of choices on how to print material back then, plus I couldn’t afford much of anything, but I went to Haines & Essick to find out what was available.
It seems like only yesterday that I entered the store and met a salesman. His name was Paul Long, who was extremely friendly and helpful.
I told him what I was looking for and he said that he knew exactly what would work for me.
WE RODE the freight elevator to the second floor, entered what appeared to be a breakroom -- it had a pop machine and a kitchen table.
He asked me what kind of soda I liked and got a bottle out of the machine.
He told me to be seated and he would get the machine and bring it to me.
I was only a teenager, and I felt he had a lot more important people to talk with than me, but his attention, courtesy and friendliness, made me feel like a really important customer.
A FEW MINUTES later he brought in a used A B Dick mimeograph machine.
He demonstrated how it worked (it had a crank on the side to turn the drum) and, using a stencil wrapped around the drum, he cranked out several copies of what had been typed on the stencil.
The cost of $75 was about what I had saved to buy a machine and, as crude as it was back in those days, I thought it was the greatest machine in the world because I could write my thoughts and feelings and would have the means to distribute them to be read by others.
That was a great feeling!
PAUL LONG took the machine downstairs for me, told the cashier how important a customer I was and made it easy for me to enjoy paying for it.
He loaded the mimeograph in the trunk of my car, shook my hand, thanked me for the business and wished me well.
I never forgot the treatment I received that day at Haines & Essick and over the years that kind of service was always there when I needed it.
SOME YEARS later I started in business (with some offset presses) just three blocks from Haines & Essick. Five years after that, I became editor and publisher of this newspaper and, in all of the decades since, I have never walked by Haines & Essick that I don’t have a warm feeling because of what happened to me there when I was a teenager.
Haines & Essick was built on service and that was (and is) true of all successful businesses.
CERTAINLY, the economy, the changing buying habits of shoppers and other factors, like ordering from the internet, have made it tough on stores like Haines & Essick in recent years.
To its credit, the store has been creative in changing with the changing times, but the effort has not been enough.
This store, and the people who have worked there through the passing decades, have held to a tradition of old-time personal customer service that has largely disappeared from many places of business.
It’s sad to lose a 114-year-old anchor store in downtown Decatur.
But, even more, I’ve lost a place where the spirit of service reached out and made a teenage boy feel like an important customer -- and helped me move ahead towards achieving my business dreams.
--Posted 4/22/16 from 4/20 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Encounters With ‘Droopy Drawers’
I WAS walking across the intersection of Main and Franklin Streets recently when I observed something that is fairly common these days.
An overweight young man crossed my path and the top of the pants he wore began at the bottom of his rear fully exposing his underwear.
It was another of many encounters with a “Droopy Drawers” person.
OBVIOUSLY, it was impossible for his pants not to drop to around his ankles the way he had them positioned unless he used one of his hands to hold up his pants.
All the time that I saw him Droopy Drawers was using one of his hands to hold up his pants!
I can’t imagine walking around town all day using one of my hands to hold up my pants.
One of these days he is probably going to have carpal tunnel syndrome from using his hand and wrist so much.
I’M SURE about all of you reading this column have observed the same sight that I just described.
Many young men have been burdened with the task of showing their underwear and holding up their pants for years.
I realize that I come from a generation where a young man would be mortified if anyone had seen any part of his underwear while he was walking down the street.
Back then flat-top and ducktail haircuts were some of the strongest messages sent by young men -- although there was no particular message that was being sent.
MAYBE the message of the “ultra-droopy drawers” look is in some kind of code that adults cannot understand.
I sure don’t get it.
Believe me, the only thing I understand about it is that walking around showing your underwear and clinging to your pants to keep them from falling down -- looks really stupid!
I GUESS it is a “look” to appear “cool” or “kool” but, in freezing temperatures of winter in Decatur it probably is more “cold” or “kold” than cool.
I’m thinking that Droopy Drawers people probably would always have to wear short coats in the winter. Can you imagine how it would look for him to try holding his pants up reaching through or around a long coat?
Another casualty of the Droopy Drawers “look” is a credible protest of something in our society.
Can you imagine how ineffective any protest would be if Droopy Drawers forgot which hand he was using to hold up his pants and raised the wrong fist in the air?
It’s hard to be taken seriously when your pants are down around your ankles.
A FEW years ago I proposed that all downtown businessmen walk around wearing their trousers or suit pants in the same position as Droopy Drawers to see how cool that would be viewed by young Droopy Drawers wearers.
We’d probably be arrested for indecent exposure but it would give Droopy Drawers advocates a chance to see a real “fashion statement”.
Hopefully, they would not applaud the way we wore our clothes -- because their pants would fall down!
I KNOW that sometimes what I write must seem to some people that I’m doing an imitation of Actress Ruth Gordon in the Clint Eastwood movie “Every Which Way But Loose”.
Ruth was the old lady (Ma Boggs) who was on the front porch of her house with a shotgun ready to deal with a motley crew of motorcyclists.
“Get out of my yarrrrrrrrrd,” she yelled at them, along with “Get off of my porrrrrrrrrrch”.
When they started to tear down her porch she started blasting away destroying several of their motorcycles and putting them on the run.
MAYBE I could sit on a bench in Central Park this summer and yell in my best Ruth Gordon/Ma Boggs imitation at the “Droopy Drawers” people: “Pull up your paaaaannnnnnnnnts!”
I would never be in any danger. If I can’t outrun a man holding up his pants with one hand, it’s time to retire.
Oh well. I guess it could be worse. As far as I know, Droopy Drawers is at least wearing underwear -- for now!
--Reprinted from April 6, 2016 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Strike One Stupid Act Off My Bucket List
I’VE lived in the same house for the past 37 years and, during that time, I never had a second thought about climbing a ladder and going up on the second story roof to caulk around the chimney every few years.
It’s actually a minor chore.
I’ve always scampered up the ladder, climbed the rooftop to the chimney, enjoyed the “aerial view” of the neighborhood, and then returned to earth.
HEIGHTS have never bothered me. About 30 years ago I painted the entire house using some contraption that was somewhat like a scaffold (note the word “somewhat”).
I created my scaffolding from a few large plywood boxes that were in the garage and climbed up on them and started to paint.
Several people in cars, who passed on the road in front of my house, waved at me as they drove by.
Thinking back at how stupid and unsafe it was to trust my life on something I had created out of boxes, I now realize they were waving for me to come down before I killed myself!
WELL, it took me awhile, but I painted the entire exterior of the house standing on plywood “building blocks” and, if I needed to go higher, I just added a box or two.
Since it was decided that I was a high risk painter, we decided to have aluminum siding replace the boards and my house painting and aerial balancing act ended -- which is probably the reason I am alive today to type this column.
A COUPLE of weeks ago, we noticed that an extremely heavy rain had caused a small leak at the chimney and the weather forecast was for thunderstorms to start that afternoon and continue for the next three or four days.
Since I wouldn’t be able to find a professional to repair the leak in a few hours, I had one choice to stop the leak before the rains came -- so I asked my wife to climb up on the roof and fix the leak!
The choice was me to get up on the roof, which seemed like no big deal.
I STOPPED by Farm & Fleet to pick up some caulk and a caulking gun and headed home, quickly changed into some old clothes (I don’t wear a suit and tie to climb on the roof) and headed for my adventure.
I put the ladder on the garage so I could walk out on it and then pull myself up to the second story roof.
I got to the top of the ladder and decided that didn’t look very safe -- so I moved the ladder to another position leaning against the house.
I climbed to the top of the ladder, and was ready to climb on the roof when, for the first time in my life, climbing on the roof didn’t seem like a good idea -- and I paused for about 5 minutes while I decided if I really wanted to go ahead with this project.
I THOUGHT, “This is how some people my age get killed by falling off of their roof!”
Then I thought, “I can do this one more time,” and climbed onto the roof.
When I got to the chimney on the second story of the house and looked at the neighborhood below I seemed to be looking off of the top of the Citizens Building! WOW!!!
I FOUND the leak, gave it an extra dose of caulk and started sliding down the roof towards the ladder, but I stopped in time! (There’s nothing like clawing shingles to stop yourself in time.)
When I climbed on the ladder and my feet finally hit the ground, I thanked God for returning me to earth and asked for forgiveness for breaking the commandment of “Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God” with my roof climb.
I pledged “never again” but I did get the repair made before that afternoon’s rain -- which never happened.
In fact, it didn’t rain for two weeks. I risked my life for nothing!!!
TODAY, a professional from a local firm is putting new flashing on the chimney to take care of the problem -- so that’s something I don’t have to think about doing ever again.
From now on, the only person messing around with my chimney will be either a professional -- or Santa Claus!
Posted from 3/30/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Catching Up On Some Important Stories
IN THE MARCH 2nd edition I had a City Beat column about Betty Wheatley’s appeal to the City of Decatur for a review of downtown handicapped parking spaces.
Betty had written a letter to the City of Decatur on Jan. 30th, detailing three areas where she thought some handicapped parking changes would make it easier for handicapped citizens to park and shop downtown.
1) There are no handicapped spots in the whole block of Merchant Street but a number of great businesses for food. There should be one handicapped spot in the middle of the block on the east side of that street.
2) The first parking space on the south side of William at North Main Street should be handicapped so they don’t have to cross a very busy street to get to any business in that whole block between William and Prairie. There are a number of great restaurants in that block. Trying to hurry across Rt. 51 from the parking lot on the east side of the street is not easy sometimes.
3) There is one handicapped parking spot in the parking lot off of East Main street just south of Route 51-South Main corner but it is about 4 spaces into the parking lot. Why isn’t the first space the handicapped spot? That is the spot which needs to be more accessible.”
“Thank you for a review of this matter,” she concluded in her letter to the city.
WHEN SHE had not received a response by the first of March, she dropped the letter by my office and I printed her suggestions in the City Beat column.
I am happy to report that Betty has heard from the City of Decatur. She sent me a copy of what she had sent to Griffin Enyard, P.E., Civil Engineer II, which reads: “Thank you so much for your response. I was so pleased that at least a couple of spots can be addressed and can appreciate the expense involved with the number three question. I’m sure the two additions to the parking will be a great help for handicapped accessibility.”
HEY, BETTY -- getting two out of three of your suggestions addressed is something to celebrate!
Also, thanks to Mr. Enyard for his response to Betty. That was very positive and I’m always pleased to report good news about the city I love and the people who want to make it better.
Hmmm. I wonder if Betty learned the power of using the press at Trump University? (Just joking, Betty.)
• LAST WEEK, I wrote about a grandma who gave me “the finger sign” as both of us were driving on Southside Drive after another driver had done something to irritate her. (Maybe I irritated her, too.)
I received several responses from readers (mostly humorous and some I can’t print) but Don L. Custin had his own explanation of why the grandma gave me the finger sign.
Don wrote: “I would be inclined to surmise that the 'lady' mistook you for the city manager.”
Don, I’m sure City Manager Tim Gleason is “amused” by the comment.
Actually, the “lady” was no “lady” and it’s more likely that she didn’t like the way I was driving ... or, her corns hurt and she was mad at the world.
Anyhooo, the city manager has a beard so she knew I wasn’t him -- I shave every morning.
• SPEAKING of beards it was nice to chat with Congressman Rodney Davis who stopped by my office while he was home from Washington D.C. He’s always good about staying in touch and sitting down and answering questions.
Davis no longer has his beard that usually generated some talk. He told me his wife hated to see him shave it off but he did. (Do you still have her vote?)
Davis told me that he had just voted for Marco Rubio for President because Rubio identified with his generation.
That didn’t work out so well, but Davis easily won his primary election last week over his Republican opponent Ethan Vandersand in the 13th Congressional District race with 77% of the vote.
He will face Democrat opponent Macon County Board Member Mark Wicklund in the general election.
The only advice I have for Davis for the November election is to not drive on Southside Drive between now and then -- Granny Boldfinger may put a curse on him!
Posted on 3/15/16
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Has Decatur Been Visited From Outer Space?
REMEMBER one of our letters to the editor in the Feb. 3rd edition about a “strange occurance”?
Frank D. Cummins of Decatur wrote of an incident in his life that happened in Macon County on Feb. 4, 1960.
Here’s part of that letter to refresh your memory:
“I had just crossed a small bridge and I guess I had gone approximately a half mile. All of a sudden the whole earth become broad daylight. It was like it was noon, not midnight. I stopped my truck but left the engine running. I got out of the truck, keeping one foot on the running board and the other on the ground.
“I looked up and saw a giant bright light which I would say was probably 60 to 80 feet in diameter. I would say it was possibly 1000 feet high. It could have been higher. I just don't know. As I stood there, I remember I could see both sides of the road which had small tree lines.
“The bottom of the light looked totally flat. It did not look convex nor was it concave. I could hear the hum of something like a giant turbine. It was slow and soft and turning gently. I kept looking up wondering if this was the end of the world...
“...I don't know how long the entire encounter took place. Maybe 2 to 3 minutes, or 30 to 45 seconds. I do remember standing there shaking like a dog passing peach seeds. I decided to get in my truck to see if it would go. The minute I started to move, it was gone and everything was pitch black again. Then I started thinking about flying saucers. That is what they were called back then...”
FRANK’S experience has generated another letter from Randy Janes of Mt. Zion.
Randy wrote that the Feb. 3rd letter “has prompted me to relate something that happened in about 1966 or 1967.
“I was in the den of our house in the Fans Field neighborhood with my mother one night watching the television when something strange occurred.
“I had a new Webcor tape recorder that when you set it up to record and had the bass turned down and put a microphone too close to the speakers, it would put out a low noise that would make the room seem to vibrate.
“WE EXPERIENCED such a noise and vibration that seemed to shake the whole house and it was coming from right behind us. We were seated on a couch on the north wall with a window right behind us. We just looked at one another and said nothing, not wanting to look out the window.
“The next morning we discovered several equally-spaced burned patches in the yard, just outside that window. If someone had a huge drone you landed in our yard that night…please contact me.
“I HEARD a story from one of my customers several years ago, who lives just outside Argenta, about seeing what appeared to be headlights of someone driving across a field behind their home. They soon realized that the lights were steady and not bouncing up and down as they would be driving across such rough terrain. The approaching lights suddenly sped up and then vanished.
“Okay, I'm convinced that we are not alone in this universe.”
FRANK and Randy’s letters detailing their experiences a half century ago show that, whatever they experienced, it left such an impression on them that, all these decades later, they remember every detail.
Even though I’ve never seen a flying saucer or UFO, I don’t doubt the stories of Frank and Randy in their letters to me.
Whatever they experienced is obviously burned into their minds forever.
It seems that flying saucers, UFOs and other strange happenings started in the mid-1940s and continued into the 1960s, but have somewhat faded from public view in the decades since.
There’s been some photographs and videos shot of flying saucers and UFOs but some have been exposed as fakes.
I try to keep an open mind and I do find experiences related by Frank and Randy fascinating to read.
In the past some have claimed that visitors from another part of our solar system came to earth looking for intelligent life -- and didn’t find any.
If you believe that theory, you have to also believe “they” came during a Presidential election year.
Posted From The March 2 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Cowardly Letters From Anonymous Writers
SINCE THIS the Decatur Tribune print edition is read by a huge number of people each week I receive a lot of mail in response to stories and other items I’ve written.
A high percentage of the comments come through email, but I still receive a substantial amount of U.S.P.S. mail.
Every once-in-a-while I receive a hand-addressed envelope from I. C. English, a seemingly smug anonymous writer who, in the past, has written to criticize something I’ve written or berate a comment made by a reader. There’s never been a positive word about anyone or anything.
I don’t even bother to open the envelope anymore.
If this person cannot sign his or her name and where they can be contacted, I have no interest in what they write.
The latest envelope was quickly dispatched to the trash unopened.
I. C. USES a different return address on the envelope each time it is sent. This last time, the return address was in the 700 block of West Packard -- the same block where I lived as a kid decades ago while attending Roosevelt Junior High School. (That’s more than a little sick and probably against U.S.P.S. regulations.)
Maybe I. C. English should take a closer look at why he or she sends such anonymous letters and see a mental health professional who hopefully can help resolve such creepy and cowardly ways.
I’ll pray for I. C. because, although I don’t know I. C.’s identity, no one is anonymous to God.
AFTER years of reading anonymous letters sent to me, both while in public office and as editor of this newspaper, I decided a few years ago, that anything that is submitted to me by an anonymous writer will go to the trash without being read.
If I do open an envelope, the first thing I do, is look for identification to see who wrote it.
If that’s not on the letter, it is pitched. It has no value.
This policy may seem a little extreme, but I’ve never read an anonymous letter in past years that had anything worth reading in it.
MY FACE, my name and various ways to contact me are in this newspaper each week -- and always have been.
If I have the guts to be responsible for what I write, so should I. C. and others of that disturbed group.
If you write something that you do not want published in the Tribune, all you have to do is write “Not For Publication” on the letter or email and it will not appear in the newspaper.
I would guess that 90% of all the correspondence I receive during the course of a year never appears in print. (Part of the reason is a lack of room to print all of it.)
The biggest reason is that those who write or talk to me “off the record” want those conversations and letters “off the record”.
Those conversations and letters remain between the two of us.
I DON’T hate people who want to hide in the shadows and shoot anonymous words in my back and the backs of others trying to make a difference in the community.
However, I don’t have any respect for them, or their opinions, because they are too cowardly to stand behind what they believe and try to shoot down the beliefs of others.
It really is an illness and I’m sorry they see their role in the world as “word snipers”, shooting people in the back with their “enlightened rhetoric”.
I SUPPOSE there is a chance that an envelope I mistakenly thought contained an anonymous letter and trashed actually contained a check, but in all the years when I opened all the anonymous mail, there was only hate, misinformation and the abuse of the English language.
Well, it’s time to open today’s mail.
The next sound you hear may be of a paper shredder firing up and waiting to be fed!
That’s the old-fashioned way, in this modern era, of hitting the “delete” button on anonymous letters.
--Posted 2/12/2016 from print edition of the Decatur Tribune
‘Harley Rat’ Meets ‘The Plowboy’... Again!
MY RECENT column about life in the 700 block of North Packard Street, when I was a junior high school student, has brought back a lot of memories.
In fact, I’ve heard from some of the students who were at Roosevelt Junior High School with me and this week'’s “Scrapbook” article in the print edition of the Decatur Tribune contains some extended impressions from Don McCloud who lived and worked on West Packard while a Millikin student.
I ENJOYED my time at Roosevelt Junior High School decades ago.
However, there was one student who was a bully and crossed my path more than a few times.
He wore a motorcycle jacket and combed his hair back in a ducktail. Some kids called him “Harley Rat” but it wasn’t because he had a motorcycle. He wasn’t even old enough to have a driver’s license.
My brother had given me a denim jacket that he had worn and I wore it to school. “Harley Rat” always gave me a rough time about it. He liked to call me “Plowboy” because of the jacket.
Obviously, I didn’t call him “Harley Rat” because I valued my life.
ONE DAY my denim jacket disappeared and the next day Harley Rat wore it taunting me and challenging me to do something about it.
A few days later, I found it on the floor in front of my locker. It was all cut up and soiled with some stinky substance. (Maybe it was his natural grizzly bear odor.)
As he walked by, he said something like: “How do you like your jacket now, PLOWBOOOOOOOOOY!?”
I just shrugged and acted like it was no big deal.
I never let Harley Rat get any satisfaction out of taunting me, although I will admit that messing up the jacket came very close to unleashing that pent-up anger that was simmering just below the mild-mannered surface -- and could have given me super human strength in going after him, or so I thought!
AFTER junior high school, I no longer saw him. I don’t know if he left town, or went to prison, or what happened to him.
Decades passed and, out of the blue, “Harley Rat” came to the mayor’s office to ask me for some help on a project he was involved with and he obviously cared a lot about.
I was prepared to make him squirm, but Harley Rat didn’t look much like he did at Roosevelt. (Neither did I.) He looked like an old man. His hands were shaking from some ailment and his bully days were long gone.
I don’t think he remembered that I had been his classmate at Roosevelt.
ACTUALLY, his request was not unreasonable and I felt it would be good for the city for me to look into it.
As he rose to leave, we shook hands and he thanked me for my time. I resisted the urge to say something like: “Hey, Harley Rat? Do you remember me?”
“I’M PLOWBOOOOOOY!!!!!! and you owe me a new denim jacket!!!!!”
Instead, I let him walk out the door.
Until that meeting I hadn’t seen him since junior high school and had forgotten about him until the day he called to see me.
I never felt that a time would come when I could “seek revenge”. I didn’t think about him at all.
I’ve always believed that I cannot grow as a person if I carry a spirit of revenge in my heart.
Harley Rat left my office -- and I thought that, not mentioning the past, was the right way to handle the meeting.
HARLEY RAT passed away several years ago and, as I read his obituary, I couldn’t help but remember the passage of time between our encounters at Roosevelt Junior High School and our meeting again in the mayor’s office.
Maybe, over the years, his treatment of others changed. I hope it did. Kids sometimes do things they would never do when they become adults and often regret their unkind actions.
THERE IS a common saying that “What goes around comes around”, meaning a person's actions will have consequences later in life.
When Harley Rat walked through my office door that day, what he had done to me years earlier finally “came around”.
The real question for me, when I’m faced with an advantage over someone who once had the advantage over me, is what do I do with that advantage?
If I treat a bully the same way the bully treated me, then I’m as bad (maybe worse) than the person who mistreated me in the first place!
I started learning that truth a long time ago from my parents, in Sunday School and continued that education while a student with Harley Rat at Roosevelt Junior High School.
I believe that simple truth applies to all of our actions --whether we’re wearing a denim jacket or a suit coat.
Posted Feb. 6th from the Feb. 3rd print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Oh No! The ‘Taco Curse’ Hovers Over Me!
I’M beginning to think there’s a “taco curse” on me.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my possessed car “Christine” going berserk and flashing lights while in the drive-up window lane at the Taco Bell on Pershing Road.
It was eerie and a little more than embarrassing.
RECENTLY, during the really cold weekend we had, I was working at the newspaper and decided to take a break and drive up to Pershing Road for some tacos to bring back to the office.
It was the first time I had driven Christine to Taco Bell since the “flashing” incident I wrote about.
It was a bitterly cold day, with the wind chill at several degrees minus 0. I probably should have warmed up some soup and not left the building.
However, I couldn’t resist the temptation to see if Christine would be on her best behavior if given a second chance in the drive-through lane.
MUCH TO my surprise the drive to and from Pershing Road was peaceful with no automotive antics to spoil the trip.
When I parked across the street from where the newspaper office is located (it was too cold to walk from the parking lot) I got out of the car and made my way across Water Street with a big soft drink in one hand and a sack of tacos in the other.
AS I neared the sidewalk in front of the Millikin Court building, I glanced around to make sure my car’s engine was actually shut off.
Then it happened!
I wasn’t totally concentrating on where I was walking, slipped on a little spot of snow, tripped over the curb and fell down!
The big soft drink cup was smashed with all of the ice and drink spilling out!
I had fallen on the cup and the bag of tacos!
I DETECTED, from the parts of my body that immediately started hurting, that I had made a three point landing on my right knee, right elbow and my little finger on my left hand.
I slowly got to my feet, left the smashed cup and ice there (planned to go back and pick up the litter after I gave myself a medical exam) and staggered into the warmth of the lobby of the building.
ACTUALLY, I was spared any serious injury. My knee was skinned up, and there was a cut on my little finger, but my elbow appeared unharmed.
So, I sat down, opened the bag of tacos and the shells were so smashed into little pieces that I had to use a spoon and fork to eat them.
Has anyone in the history of mankind ever eaten tacos with a spoon?
Obviously I was in “shell shock”.
I LIKE tacos, nachos and taco salads from time to time, but there seems to be a curse hanging over such food -- at least for me.
Remember when I wrote about taking a tumble into a taco salad I was taking back to the office during the Decatur Celebration four or five years ago? It happened at the corner next to Busey Bank when I stepped awkwardly on some new curbing and fell face-first into the salad?
Of course, it seemed then that about everybody attending the Celebration saw me fall!
You haven’t lived until you walk a block back to the office with taco salad all over your face and clothes!
I think some people thought I was one of the acts that Producer Fred Puglia had hired for the entertainment -- as in “Meet the taco face man!”
AFTER my most recent “taco trip”, when I got into my car to drive home, I expected Christine, who had witnessed my taco tumble to flash something on the dashboard screen like “clumsy” or “enjoy your trip?”, but she was silent.
Actually, I blamed her for the fall. If she would shut off her engine like a normal car I wouldn’t have been looking around to double-check and be distracted so that I tripped on the curb.
However, she had no words of criticism, apology or sympathy for me.
It was probably the wind, but I did think that I heard a slight giggle coming from somewhere in the car.
I’m sure it was my imagination -- or was it?
The next time I want tacos, I’m driving the newspaper van -- or find a taco place that delivers.
That should keep the tacos, and me, in one piece.
Posted from Jan. 27, 2016, print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
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Jean Touched My Life And So Many Others
GARY Patrick called me last week to tell me that his mother had passed away.
As we talked about Jeannine M. Patrick, or Jean, (as about all of us called her) our conversation stirred memories of the encouragement I always received from her all the way back to my childhood.
When I was a teenager, I worked one summer for Jean and her husband, Loran, when they had a farm about a mile west of Hammond.
HAMMOND is about 20 miles east of Decatur on Route 36 and a typical rural community. My parents, and most of my relatives lived in, or around Hammond, where “everyone knew everyone else.”
Although I’ve lived in Decatur most of my life, I still have very strong, sentimental feelings about the Hammond connection and the incredible people who were part of my impressionable years.
Jean was one of those people.
WHEN I expressed a desire to go into the ministry, after speaking in churches and camp meetings for several years, Jean and her husband, Loran, were among the most supportive.
I remember Jean telling me, as we were leaving the church building one evening: “God will bless you. You’ll do great. You’ll be fine.”
Those were extremely encouraging words to a young man seeking direction for his future.
The Hammond Church of Christ sponsored a religious publication that I started along with the “Thoughts For Today” weekly radio program that I did on WDZ for nearly ten years.
Those things happened because people like Jean, and others, believed in me and what I wanted to do for God.
WHENEVER I would speak she would always praise the sermon. I don’t know if it was that good, but she thought it was great.
Positive words are always encouraging to those who speak in public.
Jean, and others, were extremely encouraging in their support of my efforts and, as the years pass, I find myself appreciating even more how big an influence the goodness of people like Jean had in my life.
WHEN I was in my twenties, I needed surgery for kidney stones. Jean, who was a surgical nurse for St. Mary’s Hospital, was the last person I saw before “going under”. I remember she reassured me by saying “You’re going to be fine. You’ll be okay.”
She was also one of the first people I saw after the surgery as she was checking to see if I was okay.
THAT EXPERIENCE was one of many that I can see so clearly today as I remember this good woman.
Jean had a strong faith in Jesus Christ and a great family and many friends. You can see that in her obituary on page 22.
However, obituaries don’t tell how many individual lives, including my own, that were touched in so many ways by people like Jean Patrick.
They are not only a part of where we came from, but, more importantly, a part of who we are today -- and will be tomorrow.
I HADN’T seen Jean for several years, and when Gary called to tell me that she had passed away, he said, “Mom loved your newspaper and she loved to hear you speak. She said that you always spoke for 20 minutes and included everything that needed to be said.”
Ahhh, Jean, you’re still encouraging me even though you’ve passed on.
JEAN was buried Saturday in the rural cemetery across the field from the farm where I worked for Jean and Loran so long ago.
But, that’s just the physical body we knew. Jean’s soul has gone to God.
The great assurance and comfort that we have is that God knows better than we do that Jean was a special person.
--Reprinted from the 1/20/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Despite The Cold, Flasher Seen Near Pershing Road
A FEW DAYS ago, I decided I wanted to take a break and pick up some tacos to take back to the office for lunch.
So, I drove to Taco Bell on Pershing Road, stopped at the end of the line of cars, and gave some serious thought about ordering when it was my turn.
THEN, it suddenly happened!
That’s when the flasher struck!
It caught me completely off guard!
The emergency flasher on my car (better known as the possessed Christine) started flashing! (What did you think I meant by the headline?)
If you have read this column for very long you know that I’ve had some real interesting, and sometimes embarrassing, episodes with Christine -- the car that seems to be almost human.
I HIT the emergency flasher button (I don’t know the technical term for it) but the flashers kept doing their flashing!
The driver in the car behind me honked his car horn to alert me that I... I mean the car... was flashing him.
Christine was attracting a lot of unwanted attention.
When I couldn’t get her to stop flashing I pulled the car out of line and drove to Taco Bell’s parking spaces on the west side of the building.
I THOUGHT if I would shut off the car’s engine, the flashing would stop but, when I thought again, people usually turn on the flashers when something is wrong with their car -- like the engine won’t run.
It was worth a try anyway.
I shut the engine off and then Christine quickly informs me that I needed to put the shift in “Park”.
I did, but she didn’t give me any information on how to stop the lights from flashing.
She does that a lot.
I FINALLY pushed every button on Christine’s console, hoping that I wouldn’t hit an ejection seat button or something else, and finally -- everything went silent and the lights no longer flashed.
I then drove around the building, got back in the drive-up lane line and said a little prayer than Christine wouldn’t insult the person bringing my order to the window.
Can you imagine how silly I would have looked if I had tried to explain that I hadn’t made the insult -- that was my car imitating my voice?
ACTUALLY, when I got my order and headed back to the office, I thought about what had just happened and considered myself fortunate.
After all, I wasn’t arrested (nor was Christine) for flashing in the Taco Bell drive-up window lane -- which means that I didn’t have to explain to a police officer that my car, not me, was doing the flashing, or undergo a sobriety test.
Life is good.
CHRISTINE, has developed quite a reputation in the community. It is rare that I fill up my car’s gas tank that someone doesn’t come up to me and ask “Is this Christine?”
When I acknowledge that’s her, they usually give me a look that ranges from amusement and amazement to trepidation.
My car is a highly sensitive personality -- so don’t stand too close.
Posted from Jan. 13th print edition of the Decatur Tribune newspaper.
* * * *
Thankful I Didn’t Claim One ‘Opportunity’
THIS WEEK, many newspaper columnists are writing about why they are thankful for their families and other blessings this Thanksgiving.
That’s great and I feel the same way about my family and friends. Like so many of you, I have been blessed in a lot of ways and am thankful.
Looking back over my life, I’m especially thankful for not answering the door when one opportunity knocked.
That decision was a “life changer”.
BACK IN the late 1960s, a few years after I started my publishing business in Decatur I had a number of solid contacts I had made in the Chicago area and seriously considered opening an office in the loop.
In fact, I was interested enough that I went to check out the office space to lease in one of the skyscrapers.
All indications pointed that it was a great opportunity that was knocking on my door.
AS I drove back to Decatur, I thought long and hard about moving the business to Chicago.
It was a great opportunity to make a lot of money with some large clients.
After giving it a lot of thought, I decided against taking advantage of the opportunity.
I loved Decatur, and my life here, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
ONLY a few months later, a Decatur weekly newspaper was ready to fold (no pun intended) after a little over a year in business.
I saw it as another opportunity and bought the Decatur Tribune the week before it was going to cease publication.
I have been editor and publisher ever since and have never thought of any other career than that of a journalist in this community.
I really love what I do and the community where I live and work.
I WAS thinking today about the “Chicago” and “Tribune” opportunities and how I am so thankful for the choices I made back then although it may have not seemed very smart.
The “Chicago” opportunity held amazing potential and several of my contacts were very positive about it.
Deciding to buy a newspaper that no one else wanted to buy, which was even going to cease publication if I didn’t buy it, was met with a huge negative reaction from many business associates and friends who thought I was making a terrible mistake.
I am so thankful that I rejected one opportunity and put myself in a position for another -- to buy this newspaper in 1969.
I’VE NEVER regretted the decision to stay in Decatur and build my life and raise our family in this community.
I don’t know how successful I would have been had I made the “Chicago decision” and I really don’t care to even speculate.
It doesn’t make any difference.
I’ve never doubted in my heart that it was the right decision -- even during the early lean years when keeping this newspaper going was really tough.
WHAT I do know is that any success I might have enjoyed in Chicago would never have measured up to the life and career that I’ve enjoyed here -- at least in my eyes and heart.
Everything that I’ve been able to achieve in my publishing career and in this community would not have happened had I made a different decision back then.
The move to Chicago felt right on paper all those decades ago, but it didn’t feel right in my heart.
The reasons to buy this failing newspaper looked very weak on paper, but felt so right in my heart.
MOST OF you who know me, or have read this newspaper over the years, realize that I’m a firm believer that we should “weigh and pray” about what we want in life and if taking advantage of an opportunity is going to result in moving us towards life’s goals.
I have been blessed with many opportunities over the years, and taken advantage of them, but Decatur is where I found my calling, my career and my life and I would never consider leaving for any opportunity. I love it here.
I AM SO very thankful for finding out at a very young age that there’s a huge difference between making a good living -- and building a good life.
I thank God for the opportunities that have knocked on my door over the years and providing guidance in choosing when to open the door.
* * * *
Posted from Nov. 25th print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Random Thoughts From The Mind
Of An Overworked Editor
• I HEARD from several readers following my recent column about wanting some Chili-Mac Supreme at Steak ‘n Shake. They wrote that, after reading the column, they had a craving for an order of Chili Mac Supreme and drove to Steak ‘n Shake.
I should get a sales commission, or a free order of Chili Mac Supreme, for sending customers their way.
• CNBC now has the distinction of hosting the only Presidential Candidate Debate in history where the losers were the moderators.
• I JUST figured out what CNBC stands for: Conceited Newspeople’s Biased Comments.
• IF SOMEONE is convicted of murder and given a life sentence, is he given his freedom if he has a heart attack and is pronounced dead, but later revives, and comes back from the dead?
• THE AWARD for the fastest drivers on Southside Drive goes to guys driving big pick-up trucks with loud exhaust pipes. Is there some kind of “drive fast” card the drivers get when they buy the trucks?
• SOMEONE told me they were going to watch “Scandal” which aired on a recent Thurday evening. I wondered: “Which one? -- The ‘Scandal’ with Olivia Pope or the Bengazi hearing with Hillary Clinton?”
• WHILE stopped at an intersection the other night, I looked over to the next car and the woman driving was extremely pale with a ghastly look on her face.
Maybe she looked that way because she was going to a Halloween Costume Party -- or was heading for an audition in the new television series, ‘THE DRIVING DEAD’!
• THE PROBLEM with many television journalists today is they are entertainers instead of journalists and are looking to build audiences through promoting themselves instead of asking meaningful, objective questions of the candidates.
• FOR THE young “gentleman” who was weaving his car in and out of traffic in order to advance on North Water Street the other day...I was so pleased when he ended up behind a real slow moving dump truck and couldn’t switch lanes while the rest of us passed him by. I could barely conceal my delight -- and I’m sure that most of the other drivers felt the same way.
• GATHERINGS, debates and meetings of politicians during a presidential election campaign remind me a lot of the annual meeting of the Lairs Club International. The one who can tell the biggest whopper most convincingly -- wins.
• THE REAL purpose behind our nation’s two party system is so one party will have the other party to blame for all of its problems.
• IS IT because I’m getting older that I have a difficult time opening little packages of crackers that they serve with soup in restaurants?
• MY DIGITAL car clock has been correct since Central Standard Time arrived early last Sunday morning. As most of you know, I’ve been waiting for the clock to have the correct time since Daylight Savings Time made it an hour off last spring. Why didn’t I use the few seconds it would have taken to “spring it ahead” seven months ago? It’s my protest against my car “Christine” who is smart enough to start her engine when I’m not around, but not smart enough to change the clock automatically twice a year.
Posted from the print edition of the Decatur Tribune 11/6/2015
* * * *
Some Random Thoughts On A Brisk Autumn Day
• I LOVE this time of year in Central Illinois. There’s a briskness in the air, the days are beautiful, the changing color of the leaves is awesome and the formation of clouds enhancing an autumn day’s sunset produces an inspiring view.
I remember one evening when I was a teenager and driving my mother back into Decatur on Route 36 and the sunset was spectacular.
My mother, a deeply religious woman, was looking at the sunset and commented on its beauty.
“When the sunset is so beautiful don’t you wonder how beautiful it must be beyond the sunset?” she asked.
My mother, Betty Osborne, passed away nearly 25 years ago, and I never see a beautiful sunset that I don’t think about her words.
Now, she knows how beautiful it is “beyond the sunset” and, someday, I will know, too.
• I DON’T know if the Chicago Cubs will win the NLCS and head for the World Series. (As I’m writing this column, the Mets have a 2-0 advantage.)
We’ll see what happens
What I do know is that, the last time the Cubs won the World Series, my father had yet to be born.
That was in 1908. Also, My grandfather, a devoted Chicago Cubs fan, listened to every Cubs game from the time they started being broadcast on the radio, until he died in the 1950s -- and they never won the World Series during all of those seasons and decades. That didn’t stop Grandpa Bolin from rooting for them until the day he died -- almost 60 years ago. He never stopped believing that “this year is their year”.
Considering the “long suffering” of my grandpa and other life-long Cubs fans, there’s probably a lot of Cubs fans in Heaven. God knows they have “suffered” enough in this life.
• FOR SOME reason, I’ve been noticing more and more people using the word “ground” instead of “floor”.
I’ve heard basketball play-by-play announcers in recent years say that “He twisted an ankle and fell to the ground.”
Did the player go through the floor to the ground underneath the building? A detective on a television program the other night said the victim was shot inside his living room and fell to the ground.
Unless he fell out of the window and onto the ground below, he fell on the floor.
Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I’ve always believed if someone falls inside or rolls off of the couch he lands on the floor -- not the ground.
All the sweeper and mop commercials I’ve seen over the years make it plain that the device is for floors -- not for mopping the ground.
It would not seem right to say that I knocked my Diet Dr. Pepper off of my desk and onto the ground in my office!
• SEVERAL weeks ago, I wrote in this column, my reaction to the sad news that Angie Constant, 51, died on Aug. 31. Angie and her husband, Jon, opened Pastabilities Italian Grill at 143 East Main Street, a dozen years ago.
As I mentioned in the earlier column, cutting the ribbon to open Pastabilities in 2003, was my first official ribbon cutting after being elected mayor.
It has been a special place since then and I ate there many times over the years and always enjoyed the experience and loved watching Angie and Jon live out their dream in owning Pastabilities.
Since Angie died Pastabilities has been closed and will not re-open.
My office windows overlook East Main Street, which includes the front of Pastabilities, and most of the area south of it in the downtown area.
There hasn’t been a day go by since Angie passed away, and Pastabilities closed, that I haven’t paused for a short time and looked over at the front of the restaurant.
The hanging baskets and other decorations that I would see Angie working with over the years, are gone and there are no customers coming and going.
I’m sure she would have autumn and Halloween decorations up by now had she lived and continued to apply her creative ability to the business.
That creative touch, great food and hard work defined the business.
For a long, long time, I will not glance out my office windows without my eyes immediately first focusing on the front of Pastablities -- and the business dream that died when the dreamer passed away.
Posted 10/25/2015 from print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
No Chili Mac Supreme But An Interesting Conversation
ONE lunch hour last week, I got a “hankering” for an order of Chili Mac Supreme from Steak ‘n Shake.
So, I drove from downtown to the Steak ‘n Shake on Pershing Road, parked my car and headed for the front door.
Before I was half-way across the parking lot, someone yelled something at me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, so I smiled, waved and kept walking towards my greatly anticipated order of Chili Mac Supreme.
THEN, the man started walking towards me and as he came closer, he said, “They’re closed!”
He said there was something wrong with the water system and it would be several hours before it was fixed.
Obviously disappointed I said “I’ve never heard of Steak ‘n Shake being closed in the middle of a workday. I drove all the way from downtown to get an order of Chili Mac Supreme.”
He looked at my suit and said that I “looked familiar” to him.
“What are you a lawyer, or something, who works downtown?” he asked.
SOMETIMES, when people recognize me, but don’t know from where, I tell them that I’m editor of the Decatur Tribune,
The usual response is: “Oh, yeah. That’s where I know you from. I love your newspaper” or “My grandma loves your newspaper.”
So, when I responded to the gentleman that I was the editor of the Decatur Tribune -- I got a blank stare in return, although he said he knew me from somewhere.
I FIGURED he probably remembered seeing me, or my picture, when I was mayor, so I told him that I was the former mayor, and he looked somewhat shocked.
“But you died!” he exclaimed, which came as a shock to me since no one had told me about it.
“Obviously, I’m very much alive and standing here in front of you,” I told him.
“What did you say your name was?” he asked.
“Paul Osborne,” I said.
“Yeah! That’s the mayor who died.”
I EXPLAINED to him that Mayor McElroy had died recently and that was the mayor he was thinking about.
I told him that Mayor McElroy was a friend of mine and I miss him very much since he passed away.
He then admitted that Mayor McElroy was the name of the mayor he was thinking about.
I LIKED talking with the guy in the Steak ‘n Shake parking lot. He was very personable and we made some small talk for a few more minutes while the person who was with him waited patiently by the car.
Then, we shook hands, and he told me, “I’ve never shaken hands with a mayor before.”
With that we went our separate ways and I headed back to the office without my Chili Mac Supreme -- but was enjoying the beautiful fall day and happy to be alive.
AS I drove back to the office, I thought about how Mayor McElroy (Tuna) and I would often talk about our experiences in meeting the public in our roles as mayor, and that’s one thing I miss the most about my long-time friendship with the late mayor.
I couldn’t help but smile on the way back downtown, thinking about Tuna’s response to this kind of “mayor” story.
I was also reminded that, when a friend passes away, it’s not only the memories of the friend that are brought to mind, but the knowledge there will not be any future memories created.
That’s a double loss.
PEOPLE often ask me if I ever run out of ideas for this column since I’ve been writing for so long.
I really never do and I think today’s column shows why.
Simple encounters and experiences in everyday life generate column ideas for me because I am always touched in some way by the people I know and the people I meet -- even if they think I’m dead!
I had gone to buy an order of Chili Mac Supreme at Steak ‘n Shake. I didn’t get the order, but I got so much more -- including some reflections on a friendship and my own life.
--Posted From 10/14/15 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
How Long Does It Take To Become A Nuisance?
• I STOPPED at the Dairy Queen in South Shores and decided to go inside and get something to eat -- instead of using the drive-through window.
After I ordered, the cashier gave me a number (57), I got my drink and headed to a table to wait for my meal to be brought to me.
When the young woman brought the meal, she forgot to take the large plastic number (57) with her. (Taking the number indicates the meal has been delivered to the table or booth.)
So, about 20 minutes later, after I finished my meal and put the remnants in the waste can -- I marched up to the counter and waived the number 57 in front of three or four employees and said, “I haven’t received my meal, yet!”
A look of horror, mixed with embarrassment, came over their faces and the supervisor asked, “Will you check on 57 and see what happened to his meal?”
I then put the “57” on the counter and said, “I’m joking. I received my meal and have eaten it. The number 57 was left on my table.”
A look of relief came over their faces and a couple of them laughed about it.
Still, maybe I should use the drive-through window for a couple of months before going back inside.
Just think...if I was retired, I could have all the time I needed to go in places and make a nuisance of myself.
I would be banned by every restaurant and store in town after only a few months!
• MORE THAN a few times I’ve mentioned how fast the traffic flows up Franklin Street in front of the downtown post office.
Most days, when I walk to the post office, crossing at the crosswalk is a challenge because, when cars get the green light a block away, it’s like the start of the Indy 500 by the time they reach the front of the post office!
Those cars cover that block in a very short amount of time!
I’ve always wanted to carry a green racing flag with me (the kind used in NASCAR or Indy races), pull it out of my coat and wave it like I’m a flagman starting the Indy 500 as all of the cars go blasting by!
That would be fun and release a lot of frustration -- plus get a lot of puzzled looks from the drivers.
• THE OTHER day I was nearly run over by someone driving fast on South Franklin Street -- at the Main Street intersection.
Against the light a woman came flying through the intersection (in a car, of course) and was in the lane next to the one I was crossing.
She quickly changed to my lane and intentionally almost hit me! Then she went back to the lane where she had been when I saw her coming.
I don’t know what her problem was but I don’t think we have any readers who are disgruntled enough to kill the editor!
Maybe she belongs to ISIS.
Wait a minute! Probably not!
Since the driver was a woman, they would probably behead her for driving a car, or attempting to have “contact” with a man who was not her husband.
I just waved to her and now she’s wondering if I recognized her as being the intersection assassin.
• I KNOW it’s a little thing to mention, but sometimes it’s the little things that can drive you nuts.
It seems that most times when I buy a fish sandwich at a drive-through window, the fish and ingredients look like they were slapped on the bun by a hateful robot.
I like fish fillet sandwiches but I find it mildly irritating that half of the fillet is often hanging out one side of the bun!
It’s like the head of a dead animal with its tongue hanging out.
Shouldn’t there be some rule that the fillet is centered on the bun instead of half of it hanging out?
I think the next time I buy a fish fillet and I get the half-on-the-bun-treatment, I’m going to take the sandwich back and tell the cashier that my sandwich is dead -- because its tongue is hanging out the side!
I know I come from the old school where “product presentation” was important, but is it too much to ask to place my hamburger or fish fillet in the center of a bun?
I call that a “balanced meal”.
That’s the kind of thing we should be talking about in this presidential campaign -- “bunafied” issues.