Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Once again, Harriett and Ram Sidoli have sent a greeting card that captures the spirit of the season perfectly.

Here's hoping that all of you have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday, and may the year 2007 be one of joy and fulfillment.

Thanks to everyone who provided pictures and stories throughout the year. Keep them coming!

Best wishes,


Friday, December 22, 2006

Juke Box

Tom Brosch sent me a link to a juke box site that plays 450 songs from 1956-60. You need to have Windows Media Player installed on either your Mac or PC to play the tunes. Here's another site that has tunes from 1950 to 1982, with no special software required.

Bet your grandkids have never seen a juke box. I remember the huge neon-lit ones, but also the small ones that played in booths. The design above comes from Teddy's Tees, in case you want to wear one to your next Sock Hop.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas in Germany

I received this season's greeting from Lee Lochbaum, who has lived in Germany for the past six years. Lee taught English in the USA for three decades and is now happily retired. He has vivid memories of his Midwest days and enjoys reading from afar our '58 website and blog.

Dear '58s,

This past week in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, I attended the 572nd Striezelmarkt and enjoyed the traditional food, sights, and sounds of Germany´s premier Christmas Market.

Of the 2,500 + Markets listed as "official" across the country, this one is the Striezel (old German for stollen) Market. Despite wars and devastating bombings, the bakers of Dresden baked the best stollen, now known the world over. The word stollen means the swaddling of Christ (hence the shape of the loaf). Its full name is Christstollen.

Another symbol of the season is the Pflaumentoffel, the Saxon word for chimney sweep. Pflaumen means plums and Toffel has an uncertain meaning. In many homes, these toy figures decorate baskets of fruit, including plums and prunes.

As well as its 572nd Market, this year Dresden celebrates its 800th anniversary as a registered city. I lived there for nearly three years and found Dresden to be a grand, Saxon-proud town that has always shown its determination to endure!

Ich w√ľnsche Ihnen ein Frohes Weihnachtsfest und einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr 2007 aus Dresden Deutschland!

(I wish you a Merry Christmas and a good slide into the 2007 New Year from Dresden, Germany!)

Peace on earth! Lee Lochbaum, EXPAT

Friday, December 15, 2006

White Christmas?

Here's some white Christmas, since not many of us will see one this year. Most days here in the East are mild and sunny, same in the Midwest, and only the Northwest is seeing true winter storms. If you don't recall what we are missing, see these amazing photos of snow crystals.

Here also is a hilarious cartoon rendition of "White Christmas," as sung by The Drifters in 1954, when it reached number 5 on the national charts. The Drifters owe their epic string of hits to Ahmet Ertegun, a long-time producer of rock and jazz who died yesterday.

Thanks to Barbara Edmiston Mitchell for the 'toon and tune.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jo and Poco

Here's a story with a happy ending. Six weeks ago, Jo Meiers Leggett lost her beloved golden retrierver, Chance, a loyal companion for thirteen years. She had a lonely time until word reached her of a young golden who needed a home.

"He had never been in a house, on a leash, to the park, on a walk, and only once to the vet to be neutered. Yes, I was out of my mind. Now, two plus months later, he's a normal two year old—mischievous, curious, liking a good chew, and checking out the ceiling (he'd never seen one before)."

Now she and Poco visit the park, dig the people and other dogs, and at home enjoy peace with Jo's veteran cat, Sally Tomato.

Jo sends greetings and wishes us "a stupendous holiday season and everything you want and need in the New Year."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Jim Rollman

Sadly, Jim Rollman died yesterday, and he did not see the story about the Redbird baseball team. C. E. Welch was taking a copy to the hospital today, when he learned of Jimmy's passing. The following notice appears on the Kirlin & Egan website:

James L. Rollman, 66, a resident of Springfield; formerly of Coral Springs, FL died at 3:25 p.m. on Sunday, December 3, 2006 at St. John’s Hospice.

James was born on August 19, 1940 in Springfield, the son of Fred M. and Alva June Forster Rollman. He graduated from Springfield High School with the Class of 1958 and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business from the University of Miami where he also served as Captain of the golf team.

He was a member of Ft. Lauderdale Country Club and Coral Springs Country Club, both in Florida, and Jacksonville Country Club in Jacksonville, IL. He was also a member Sigma Chi Omega Fraternity at University of Miami and the YMCA in Springfield, IL.

James was employed as a salesman for Bell South Yellow pages in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He was the co-owner and operator of Ascot Development in Coral Springs, FL and Pro Greens of the Midwest.

He was a very charismatic gentleman who greatly valued his family and friends. He was a passionate golfer, loyal to his Alma Mater, the University of Miami and an avid sports enthusiast.

He was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by one son, James F. Rollman of Douglas, AZ; one daughter, Janet L. (husband, Chris) Hynes of Boca Raton, FL and one grandson, James B. Rollman.

Cremation accorded by Cremation Tribute Center, 900 S. 6th St. Springfield. Memorial Ceremonies will be held at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6, 2006 at Kirlin-Egan and Butler Funeral Home with Scott Brindley officiating. A Memorial Gathering will be held immediately following the Memorial Ceremony until 6:00 p.m. at Kirlin-Egan and Butler Funeral Home.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. John's Hospice, 800 E. Carpenter Springfield, IL 62702. The family of James L. Rollman is being served by Kirlin-Egan and Butler Funeral Home, 900 S. 6th St.. Springfield.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winter Arrives

Hi Will,

Winter arrived in Springfield last night with a vengeance. Lost power only momentarily but will have to have someone come and plow the drive so we can get out. Lost some large tree limbs due to the accumulation of ice on everything. But we could have been devastated if the winds had been worse. It's a beautiful sunny day here today.

Hope all is well with you and yours back east. Have a great holiday.

Keith Schnepp

PS: Attached is a view of the house through the snow-covered trees and a deck that looks very lonely.
Thanks, Keith. It's 66 degrees in Princeton right now, but cloudy and humid. We're going to get high winds and LOTS of rain starting around 5:00 pm EST.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stephenson Redbirds

click to enlarge

Back: Mack Stephenson, Bill Downing, Ron Wilson, Mike Stephenson, Coach Logan, Warren Haake, Gary Oline, Eddie Hines, Ralph Wilson.

Front: Bob Hamende, Larry Gaffney, Champ Davis, Will Howarth, John Voss, Jim Rollman.

Missing: Gail Millhouse, Jerry Millhon, Michael Neill. (The boxer was Mike's dog.)

It's August of 1954, just before we entered SHS. The Stephenson Redbirds were a Pony League team that played in Washington Park on Sunset Hill, the area now containing rose gardens and a carillon.

Champ, Warren, and Mike helped me on the names and faces. We have mixed memories of our success. Champ says we had a lousy record, but Warren says we played a split season: a bad start, then an undefeated record and league championship. I'm voting for Warren's account.

Catcher: Downing. Pitchers: Wilson, Oline, Davis. First: Stephenson. Second: Rollman, Voss. Third: Gaffney, Howarth. Outfield: Oline, Haake, Howarth, Hamende, Hines.

We wanted to get this picture and story online because Jimmy Rollman is quite ill and in the hospice at St. John's Hospital. We hope he gets to see this and know that we remember him well.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

In 1941, President F. D. Roosevelt gave a State of the Union address in which he declared Four Freedoms that people everywhere in the world should have: freedom of speech and of worship, freedom from want and from fear.

Norman Rockwell created four paintings to illustrate those ideas, published in the Saturday Evening Post in February-March, 1943. They became hugely popular and later appeared as postage stamps.

This one, Freedom from Want, has become a favorite image of Americans, especially on Thanksgiving. It reminds me of our family gatherings, when we had dozens of relatives and friends at a food-laden table.

Harriett Smith Sidoli and her husband, Ram, sent me an animated card to mark the day. I'm sharing it with you, and wishing you all the best on this best of holidays.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Frost on the Punkin

Hi Will,

I have enjoyed looking at the grade school pictures that classmates sent in to the blog. One of my most lasting memories of Dubois grade school is when our teacher, Miss Florence Davis, read to us every fall (we had her for 6th, 7th and 8th grade) the poem by James Whitcomb Riley, "When the Frost is on the Punkin." She always read it to us after the first hard frost.

For years now, when we have the first frost, I call Carolyn Quinlan and say, "The frost is on the punkin and the corn is in the shock", remembering those words read to us by Miss Davis. Well, I never remembered the rest of the poem, so yesterday I looked it up online and read it several times, and I just loved it. It so describes fall here in the Midwest--and probably in many other areas of the country, too, but James Whitcomb Riley was from Indiana, so I think he was depicting the Midwest.

Judy Vicars Van Hagen

Friday, November 17, 2006

Classes in '56

Fifty years is long ago, until you browse in an old Capitoline. Today I was looking at 1956 and found some pictures of our Sophomore selves. I don't recognize everyone, so please fill in the blanks with a comment. (Click on the pictures to see enlargements.)

Above is a Latin II class, led by Margaret Ihlenfeldt. Check out those little statues!
  • Board: all Unknown.
  • Row 1: Elizabeth Tinsley, Pat Dowling, Steve Dilts, Unknown.
  • Row 2: Nancy Guy, Janet Beardsley, Dennis Carroll, John Harrison, Unknown.
  • Row 3: Lewis Striebeck, Stan Thomas, Sandra Murphy.
And here is a World History class, taught by Ray Page.
  • Far left: Bob Brunsman, Arlene Jacobs, Alan Kennedy, Dale Jeffers
  • Checked shirt: Bill Profrock
  • Board: Janet Beardsley, explaining the Universe.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

When we were in grade school, they called it Armistice Day, and some of us knew veterans of that First World War, fought in 1914-18. We knew even more vets from the Second World War, which ended in September of 1945, the month we entered kindergarten.

In June of 1954, just before we entered SHS, they changed the name to Veterans Day, and so it has been ever since on November 11. It's a day to reflect on the fact that since our lives began in 1940, 149 wars have rocked the world and presently 22 are ongoing.

To mark Veteran's day, SHS has awarded its Hall of Fame honor to Brigadier General Alex W. Talmant, a much-decorated veteran of several wars and retired commander of the 47th Air Division in California. The son of a Lithuanian coal miner, he grew up near the old Pillsbury plant in Springfield. At SHS he visited several history classes and told stories. In a showcase outside the main office is a display honoring 32 SHS graduates now serving in the armed forces.

Friday, November 10, 2006


We are now deep into harvest time, just two weeks till Thanksgiving, and the still life photos of Jo Meiers Leggett may help us to reflect a little on the meaning of that season.

These two images suggest the poles of her geography: jicama beans (above) for the West and corn silk (below) for the Midwest.

Harvest is a season to gather, save, and store. And to give thanks for what has come to pass.

Oops. And I promised not to get political!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

On the Road Again

Over the last few months, Al and Diane Urbanckas have been "bopping around here and there and enjoying retirement."

Here we see them at Branson, the Silver Dollar City in southwestern Missouri. Known as "family-friendly Las Vegas," Branson has three amusement parks and a host of live theaters, featuring Country music.

In October, Diane headed with three friends to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis to view glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly. He has pieces on exhibit throughout the world and their value has risen to staggering heights.

On an earlier trip to Madison, WI, Diane took a picture from atop the Museum of Contemporary Art. "It brought back memories, mostly of long ago in Springfield, IL."

Thanks to Diane for the pictures, and please keep bopping around!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Tonight, will you put on a porch light and wait for goblins and ghosts to show at the door? Do you have a supply of bad goodies for their teeth? Will you ooh and aah at their costumes, direct from Wal-Mart?

I have good memories of Halloween. We went out in small groups, cruising the streets and scooping up bags of sweet loot. Nobody ever pulled any vandalism, other than soap on windows and TP in the trees. Later we got too old for that stuff and began to hold costume parties and dances.

Today's kids face many Halloween hazards, according to this bulletin from the Illinois Department of Health. Traffic, mean dogs, and sickos who hand out tainted candy; it's enough to make a kid stay at home!

Hope you have an enjoyable evening. And . . . BOO!

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Caddie

The Caddie Woodlawn picture stirred Barbara Edmiston Mitchell to go rummaging in her scrap albums, and up came two more shots of the Hay-Edwards 8th grade play. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

Above, left to right: Margaret Stanford, Nancy McBrian, Jim Rollman, Beverly Scott, Connie King, Ray Defrates, Mary Houghton, and Sandra Lott.

Above, left to right: Jim Rollman, Ray Defrates, Margaret Stanford, Connie King, Judy McCoy, Charles Lutes, Beverly Scott, Mary Houghton and Sandra Lott.

Several members of the school orchestra are watching avidly. Only allowed in a dress rehearsal? Thanks to Barbara for the pictures and names.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Caddie Woodlawn

That recent photo from Warren Haake shook loose another Hay-Edwards memory, this time from Janet Bailey Kerner. Above you see the cast of "Caddie Woodlawn," the 8th grade play for Hay-Edwards in early 1954: from left to right, Beverly Blue, Sue Jacobs, Dana Furry, Ruth Lance, Janet Bailey, and Suzanne Lee. (click on the picture to enlarge it)

Ruth played Caddie and Janet was Minnie, Caddie's younger sister. The play was adapted from a 1935 novel by Caroline Woodhouse, depicting the girlhood of her grandmother, Carol Ryrie Brink. The Brinks moved from Boston to Dunn County, Wisconsin, in 1857. Their farmhouse is still open to the public, spring through fall, at Caddie Woodlawn Historical Park.

According to Janet, this picture is moments after Ruth was dancing and lost her light blonde wig. "Miss Mullett was furious, so she took Ruth to the back of the stage and actually 'glued' the wiglet back on to Ruth's hair."

Janet recalls that everyone helped to paint the set, and in that process her head got doused by a bucket of red paint. Mr. Morris, the principal, became agitated and raved about the kids "pulling antics and not getting the job done."

Janet ran home to her mother, who first thought her child had a serious head wound! She cleaned her up and sent her back to school. Janet still can't remember who spilled that paint, but suspects it may have been Bob DeFrates or Robert Wright. (Fess up, guys.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

SHS Needs Help

I recently heard from Ann Hamilton, who is PTO Teacher Liaison for SHS. She writes that the school budget is severely constrained these days, and that often teachers cannot provide students with "classroom needs" to enhance the learning experience.

These include books, projectors, or transparencies for copiers. Some classes lack maps, dictionaries, and even pencils. Bigger-ticket items, like notebook computers or electronic whiteboards, are also needed urgently

Ann asked if the Class of '58 might wish to contribute. I checked with our Reunion Committee, who gave its approval to this announcement.

If you want to learn more, I've posted three files that you may download. One is an overview of the problem, and the others list needs for English, Languages, and Art. (Files are in MS Word: let me know if you need another format)

To contribute to the classroom needs fund, mail your checks to PTO, c/o Springfield High School, 101 South Lewis Street, Springfield IL 62704. Donations are tax-deductible.

For more information, please call Ann Hamilton at (217) 546-5035. And many thanks!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Warren Haake

Warren Haake sent in this picture from 1951, the year Bobby Thompson hit his famous homer. The teacher was Mrs. Bernice King, and she was enough of a baseball fan to let her class listen to that game. (To see a larger view of faces and names, click on the picture)

Warren and I played ball on the Mack Stephenson Redbirds, a Pony League team in Washington Park in 1953-55. Other team members were Mike Stephenson, Ron Wilson, Gary Oline, Bill Downing, Champ Davis, John Vass, Bob Hamende, and Lee Leonard. (If I left anyone out, please comment below.)

Warren was at SHS with our class but graduated in 1959. He's now in the class directory, e-mail address and all, and he plans to attend the 50th reunion. He and his wife, Gwendolyn Nagle, live in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Warren is a retired insurance adjuster and Gwen is a professor of theatre at Western Michigan University.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Reunion in Ventura

In August, Judy and Denny Wollan spent two weeks on the beach at Ventura, CA, where they had a surprise visit from Susan Ervin, Fred Hoffman, Charlie Adams, and Arnold (Sonny) Meyerstein.

Fred, Denny, Charlie, Sonny

Fresh from the Los Angeles wedding of Sonny's daughter, they staged a mini-reunion of the SHS classes of '58 and '59. (Fred, Denny, and Judy are '59)

Sue, Fred, Charlie, and Sonny grew up on or near Park Avenue, just south of Washington Park, and Charlie's house was a popular place to congregate in the Butler School years.

Thanks to Judy Brothers Wollan for the pictures and story. You all look great!

Denny, Sue

Judy, Sue

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Harmony Boys: 5

Charlie as Nashville recording artist, 1968

1996: Charlie works at the office of the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk, managing the phone center and handling calls on legal cases. Over the years he plays with various groups, including the Tom Blasko Trio Plus 2 and 2nd Tyme Around.

1998: He organizes a revival concert of Springfield bands, a 5-hour music marathon captured on video. In 1999 he faces severe liver damage from hepatitis but his general good health permits a successful transplant operation.

2006: Charlie retires to Ashland, but he still makes guest appearances and retains a deep knowledge of rock history—as we learned in the trivia contest at our 45th reunion.

Where are the Harmony Boys today? Ben Harmony has a upholstery business in Springfield and provides music at his church. Ray Dippel works at Bunn-O-Matic and has been slowed by health problems.

Gordon Jones spent his career in insurance and risk management. In the early 1980s he was Arizona State Director of Occupational Safety & Health (OSHA), handling over 20,000 investigations. Now retired, he still owns the drum set he got for Christmas in 1946.

Perhaps we can persuade the Harmony Boys to play at our 50th reunion?

Tom Blasko Trio Plus 2, 1969

Thanks to Charlie Harmony and Gordon Jones for their pictures and memories.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Harmony Boys: 4

Charlie and Ben: Bobbin Records Postcard, 1959

1962: in August the Harmony Boys record a last release: (A) "Lock on the Old Back Door" and (B) "Remember Me." The A side has a Twist beat and the B side is a Stuart Hamblen country tune, rearranged with a bluesy sax solo. To everyone's surprise, "Remember Me" climbs up the Top 40 charts. In 1964 Dean Martin does a version that reaches the top 10.

1963: Charlie serves two years in the Army, based in Alaska, and then rejoins the band, as does Gordon in 1966 before heading for Arizona. Charlie leaves the band in 1967 and Ben continues as The Ben Harmony Combo until the late 1970s.

1967: Charlie takes a job at the McFarland Center in Springfield and works with emotionally disturbed children. He creates a music therapy program and studies in this field at Southern Illinois. In 1973 he takes a course in England on music therapy. He remains at McFarland until 1978.

1969: He signs as a songwriter-artist with Cedarwood Publishing in Nashville, which leads to a 3-year contract with Mercury Records. During that time he releases a single on the JED label: (A) "Never Let Me Go" and (B) "Knock Around Sneakers."

1980: Charlie provides music therapy and programs in woodworking and ceramics at Aid to Retarded Citizens in Springfield. In 1983 he opens a ceramics shop in Ashland, IL, and over the next two decades he writes articles, teaches, and travels widely to demonstrate sculpting and painting techniques. [to be concluded]

Charlie meets Frankie Avalon, 1959

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Harmony Boys: 3

With JA (Jim Austin) at Teenland, 1958

1958: Gordon leaves for college. Bill Waldmire replaces him on drums and Tom Blasko joins on accordion and later key boards. More appearances, one with teen idol Fabian, lead to audition tapes and a contract with Bobbin Records, an R&B label from St. Louis.

1959: on their early records, Ben writes the A sides and Charlie the B sides. The first Bobbin release is (A) "Baby Tonight" and (B) "You Don't Care." The band then plays on "Shower of Stars," a series of live performances with recording artists like Johnny and the Hurricanes, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Avalon, and Annette Funicello.

1960: the second Bobbin release is (A) "Don't Be Cold" and (B) "Saturday Night Bop." They make many personal appearances on Hop shows (similar to American Bandstand) in Illinois and Missouri, as offers to buy their contract arrive from record companies.

1961: the band adds a sax player, Jerry Black. Bill Waldmire departs to raise a family and Gary Turley joins on drums. Their early theme song, "Raunchy," is a Bill Justis tune adapted from "Backwoods," a Southern blues riff. [To be continued]

With Jim McKinney, WCVS, 1958

(click links to hear the songs)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Harmony Boys: 2

At Big Earl's Hop, 1958

1956: Gordon Jones and Ray Dippel join the brothers and form the Harmony Boys band. They practice in the Jones living room and soon play at a few square dances. Their early style is country-western, but after Elvis emerges they shift full-time to rock 'n roll.

They put together stage outfits: bright red pants, peppermint socks, white bucks, white shirts, and red ties with a little tinfoil sparkle. For beach dates they wear red swim suits and on formal affairs put on tux shirts, black jackets, and black hats.

1957: they play Teenland, Big Earl's Hop (near the airport), the Jim McKinney radio show and Teenage Rage, a live TV show on channel 20. Other appearances are meetings and dances in Lincoln, Taylorville, and St. Louis. They travel in Ben's 1955 Ford, a light-brown job with bar grille, long tail lights, and on the rear a Harmony Boys plaque.

Their play list covers the top 40 rock hits, thanks to radio DJs like "JA" (Jim Austin), who broadcasts a live show from Teenland. Stations give them recordings; Charlie copies the lyrics and Ben, Ray, and Gordon create arrangements by ear.

1958: at a telethon in the Abe Lincoln Hotel, a "Battle of the Bands" pits The Harmony Boys against Hobie Henson's Red Devils. The match is even until Gordon's drum solo: he jumps up and dances around his white Slingerland drum set, twirling sticks in the air and not missing a beat. This act astonishes the band and brings the house down. [to be continued]

At Jerome Village Hall, 1958

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Harmony Boys: 1

The date is June 14, 1958, the place is Teenland out near the Fair grounds, and here are The Harmony Boys: (left to right) Ray Dippel on lead guitar, Benny Harmony, Charlie Harmony, and Gordon Jones on drums.

In 1956-62, The Harmony Boys lived an American dream by going from obscurity to teen fame, with girl fans screaming in a frenzy and mobbing the band offstage. Into the crowds vanished many a shoelace, along with combs, guitar picks, and drum sticks.

The first rock and roll band in Springfield, for a decade they had record contracts, appearances with rock stars, and songs on the top 40 charts. Thanks to our '58 classmates, Charlie and Gordon, I've assembled in 5 parts this brief history of those golden years.

1950: Ben and Charlie Harmony live on South MacArthur Boulevard and attend West Grand School. They begin singing as The Harmony Brothers at talent shows, annual meetings, and live radio shows in central Illinois. They often parody country-western tunes, with Charlie working as the comedian.

1955: the brothers appear on Uncle Tom's Barn Dance, a show telecast live on Mondays from Decatur. The producer adds a Saturday show featuring rock-and-roll music, and the brothers play as a rock act, backed by local musicians. [to be continued]

Pictures from Gordon Jones & Charlie Harmony
Click on them to enlarge

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Sorry to be missing of late, but I've spent a lot of time in the water. This summer I rediscovered swimming. It happened because a neighbor was away for several months, and she asked me to "watch over" her pool. That meant I could swim there any time, so in the hot days of July I got in the habit of going over afternoons or nights for a dip.

Swimming can get monotonous, so to stay alert I started counting laps. First I did 10, then 20, and before long I reached 50 laps, or a half-mile. Every visit to the pool, I swam a half mile, which dropped from 90 to 70 minutes and seems stuck right there.

I'm not setting any speed limits, and with chronic reflux I have to swim breast or back stroke rather than the crawl. But that's OK, because the crawl always bored me, which is why I lost interest in swimming long ago. How long ago and where did I start? At the old YMCA, on 7th Street? At Memorial Pool on North 9th? In Lake Springfield? (Do you remember?)

Now that summer is past, I continue to swim at a nearby fitness center. That pool is much longer and only 36 laps make a half-mile. The first time up and down those long lanes was a effort, but after a while it got to feel normal.

The water temp this morning was 81 degrees. Outside it was rainy and raw, as Storm Ernesto blew by. I'll go there several times a week from now until next July, when my neighbor's pool may once more beckon.

My point: if you don't like the way you look or feel, try swimming. The Mayo Clinic says it's the best exercise for people over 65, regardless of our condition. It strenghtens joints and muscles, burns fat, tones up flab, and improves cardio and brain function. It's not the Fountain of Youth.....but remember those swimming scenes in Cocoon?

If you want to learn more, visit the US Masters Swimming page, which has information on the benefits of swimming for seniors. And in 2008 I'll see you at Lake Springfield, rain or shine.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

State Fairs

Once again, the Illinois State Fair has come to Springfield. Last August many '58s sent in their memories about this annual institution. The prevailing view was that we recall the Fair fondly and assume it will endure.

Today a story in the New York Times reports that Midwest state fairs are in deep financial trouble. They have lost money steadily, because city folk no longer care about farming (fairs began as agricultural expositions) and they can find more sophisticated entertainment at the flick of a switch.

What can we say? Folks no longer want a carnival ride, soft-ice cream, or a lemon shake-up? Before we all mutter about cultural decline, take a look at this other story in the Times: food competitions at fairs are thriving, but now the contests are over bagels, biscotti, and ostrich burgers.

If you plan to attend, here's some advice in the SJR on how to eat wisely, as befits our senior years. Your comments are welcome!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Leslie and Ann

Now here's a good-looking quartet, left to right: Bob and Leslie Sandlin, with Ann and Dick Hart. In '58 we knew the ladies as Leslie Heinicke and Ann Tobin. Leslie sent me the picture, taken at our 45th Reunion in 2003. She's looking forward to the 50th and sends thanks to our Reunion Committee for all their hard work.

Leslie and Ann both attended Butler Grade School, and their families were prominent in local business. Tobin Jewelers and Heinicke & Company greatly contributed to local employment and commerce. The Tobin company is still active, but sadly, Leslie reports that "the lawn mower factory building on South 8th Street (there since 1902) was a victim of the April tornado."

Leslie and Bob now live in Savannah, while Ann and Dick are in Springfield. Both are active in the Elijah Iles House Foundation and Dick is the current president of the Abraham Lincoln Association.

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.