Saturday, July 29, 2006

Allan Stephens

Allan Stephens, our irrepressible maestro, has retired from his faculty position at the Model Laboratory School of Eastern Kentucky University, where he has trained many generations of school band leaders. Music has played an enormous role in Allan's life, bridging his two careers as professional soldier and educator. Of course he owes it all to Springfield, where he got his early training at Butler Grade School from Bertha Corell and Ralph Bowen and at SHS from George Patrick.

On June 2, 2006, Al's MLS students gave him a surprise birthday at Casa Fiesta, where they dressed him up with love beads and a Zorro hat, which he wore with characteristic elan (see below). Actually, the elan escaped and they had to substitute some embroidery. In honor of the occasion, the students built a website where you may see many more pictures of the surprise party at Casa Fiesta and a post-party-party at Casa Stephens.

Thinking he could return to work the following day, Al had a second great surprise when many band alumni showed up to wish him well. Check out the movie of his moment of revelation. Never at a loss for words, he responded: "Oh, good grief!" His future plans include teaching at summer band camps in Ohio and California, playing in concerts with the Central Kentucky Concert Band, and enjoying life with his lovely wife of 31 years, Mary Lou Stephens. Congratulations to Al and best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Virginia Newell

Here we see Bob and Roxanne Newell, and in the center, Bob's mother, Virginia Newell, who radiates good health at the age of 88.

My memories of Virginia go back to 1948-52, when she was our Cub Scout den mother. Bob recalls that she was a super athlete as a swimmer, golfer, and tennis player. When he was a kid, she got picked before him in neighborhood basketball games. (Probably she was taller?)

Until a few years ago she participated in Senior Olympics and rode a bike up to the age of 82. Now she goes to swim therapy, slowed only a little since knee and hip replacement.

At an early age Virginia lost her mother and step-mother, so she was raised by men and in turn raised a husband and two sons. In the mid-1960s, she and Bob Newell moved from Springfield to Rockford, where he passed away in 1995. She still lives in Rockford among many friends and is a loyal fan of the Cubs, Bears, and Big Ten sports teams.

She remembers Bob's classmates well and enjoys hearing from them, so please drop her a line at

Thanks to Bob Newell for the picture and his memories.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bunn Capitol

Bob Newell recently wrote to me that wherever he traveled, the sight of a Bunn-O-Matic coffee-maker reminded him of his home town. That's still true, but today the original 166-year-old Bunn Capitol company is sold and moving to Lincoln, according to a Journal-Register story.

Below the story, reader comments express dismay that another large business is leaving Springfield. A vendor of food products throughout Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri, Bunn Capitol employed 200 persons at its local plant on Stevenson Drive. How many of those jobs will transfer to Lincoln is not clear at present.

Bunn Capitol began as a grocery store in 1840, and the Bunn family later branched into banking (Springfield Marine) as well as beverage equipment. Bunn-O-Matic, a separate corporation, continues to employ 500 to 600 persons at Springfield.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The View from New York

Laurel Loibl McKee, one of two '58s living in New York City (the other is George Bunn) writes enigmatically, "The big town has made the big time." She refers to a travel story about Springfield that ran today in that pinnacle of journalism, the New York Times.

The writer, Ann M. Morrison, describes the Lincoln sites, Route 66, Cozy Dogs, Horseshoes (the sandwich), Mel-O-Creams, the Thomas House, Maldaner's (see above), Oak Ridge, and a few other places and meals new to me: Charlie Parker's on North Street? Sammy's Sports Bar? Time is passing me by.

From the top of "the flashlight," the 30-story Hilton Hotel, Ms. Morrison sniffs a bit at "the pancake-flat landscape," but then the lady has food on her brain. Had she visited any of Springfield's grand old parks, from Lincoln and Iles to Washington, she would have found hills, stream-cut valleys, and even a pond or two. Also, she omits Lake Springfield and its handsome parks, drives, and golf courses.

Anyway, nice publicity for the old town. My one concern: hordes of tourists from Noo Yawk looking for bagels and egg creams. Let them drink black cows, I say.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ray's CHILLI Products

Our '58 chili/chilli fans should know that Ray's Chilli and Coney Island Hot Dog Sauce are still for sale in 21 states. If not sold in your region, visit the Ray's Brand Products Online Store. The store offers chilli with or without beans, and with or without orange grease: see the Reduced Fat version.

Ray's company site offers a 92-year history of the brand name, as it moves from Texas to Illinois, from Springfield to Decatur, Ray's present location. Earlier versions of the Ray's brand sold as Chili Man Chili, and the company also made Kelly's Potato Chips.