Saturday, July 23, 2005

Homeier's Dairy

Homeier's Dairy is just a fading memory, now. Located on Stanford in about the 900 block, Homeier's was a little store that sold things such as milk in glass bottles, ice cream, penny candy, and school supplies, including the illustrious Pee-Chee folders (also, now just fading memory).

The best thing about Homeier's Dairy, though, was the soda fountain.

On Fridays, my dad would come home on his lunch hour and give my mom grocery money for the coming week. At the same time, he'd give me my wages for washing the dishes all week. My wages consisted of a quarter. As he handed it to me, he'd always say, "don't spend it all in one place." Right.

As soon as my dad went back to work, and my mom headed off to the grocery store, I hotfooted it over to Homeier's. Mr. Homeier treated me like a barkeep treats his best drunk. He'd wait patiently in his white shirt, white trousers, and black belt when I'd walk in the door, plop down on one of the stools at the counter, and spin around several times.

When I finally settled down, he'd ask, "the usual?" To which I'd nod my head in the affirmative.

My usual was a hand made chocolate milk shake served in the metal mixing container with a glass and a straw. (I'm near fainting, now, at recalling the taste.) The price was 20 cents. For a nickel more, you could make it a malt. Rarely did I get a malt. I wish I could say my intentions in not indulging in the malt were me heeding my father's words. But, no. Instead, I usually spent the change on jawbreakers and pixie stix.

I'm not sure when Homeier's opened or when it closed. But for me, it was a real treasure. I wish kids today could have known it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Jerome Prophet remembers the old Steinberg-Baum store that used to reside on the southeast corner of South Grand and Ninth Street (accross the street form The Georgian). He also uncovers what happened to the popular store.

I too remember going Steinberg-Baum's as a child. We lived fairly close so we wound up there quite often. But, for some reason, the thing I remember most was its going out of business sale in the early 1970s. Maybe it's because I had never experienced a liquidation sale before.

Anyway, I recall tons of people picking over discounted merchandise on rapidly emptying shelves. It all seemed so strange. In my young world that store had always been there, fully stocked and open for business. Now, it was emptying out, being pecked to death by shopping vultures.

Here's something I only now remembered: The Steinberg-Baum building, after the store was gone, became the first headquarters of the (then) new Illinois State Lottery. My memory is a little fuzzy on this, but didn't the State (or its landlord) tear down part of the old store because the Lottery didn't need all that space?

Anyone else remember Steinberg-Baum?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Remembrance of Birds Past

When they remodeled White Oaks Mall in the early 90s to include a food court, an egregious offense was perpetrated on the people of Springfield, the ramifications of which are still being felt to this day. I speak of course of the elimination from our locality of the premiere fast food restaurant this country has produced: Chick-fil-A. This is my tribute, a love song if you will, to this dearly missed franchise.

For the true believer, there is no equal to the Chick-fil-A experience. Connoisseurs only differ as to their preference for the nuggets or the original chicken sandwich (the grilled chicken sandwich does not qualify and was meant only to appease those egotistical waifs who value their trim waistlines over all else.) The mixture of spices and the juicy tenderness of the chicken surpasses even that that can be found in the world’s finest bistros. Its ambrosial savoriness knows no equal.

chick fil a

How else is Chick-fil-A great? Their corporate fiat to remain closed on Sundays has taught temperance to a society overtaken by gluttony and selfishness. Their refusal to dabble in the ways of Angus beef demonstrates a single-minded approach to excellence, a quality often missing in a world driven only by profit.

As is often the case in these situations, I didn’t realize what I had until it was gone. In high school, a good friend rose to the ranks of assistant manager of Chick-fil-A and was granted the honor of closing the store on occasion. Here, presented to me by some otherworldly grace, was my Charlie in the Chocolate Factory opportunity. Yet I let it pass without attempting to discover the secrets of the franchise. Ah, the folly of youth.

A couple of years after returning to Springfield from college - wiser, more worldly - the opportunity to atone for my youthful indiscretions was short-lived as Chick-fil-A lowered its gate for the final time.

But fortune would again smile on me many years later when I started dating the woman who would become my wife. She was working in retail management at St. Claire Square in Fairview Heights, IL, a mall that is blessed to this day with a Chick-fil-A. I was a frequent visitor to their food court, grateful to again have access to the food that remained my mania. It was a glorious relationship, one that sadly ended when I gave the woman who reunited me with my true love a ring, and she moved to Chick-fil-A -less Springfield to become my wife.

St. Claire Square was also the scene of an event that left me questioning the egalitarian nature of man. One day, as I stood at the counter awaiting my usual order, a person exhibited the crudest, most base act of culinary malfeasance I have ever witnessed by ordering a chicken sandwich from the Hardee’s stand that was located right next to the venerable Chick-fil-A site. “Philistine! Get thee to a church and repent!”

In 2003, during a debate on AM Springfield, Sam Madonia asked the two mayoral candidates to name one business that they would strive to bring back to Springfield if elected; Tony Libri immediately spoke lovingly of Chick-fil-A. At that point, Libri could have come out for a double digit tax increase, mandatory state militia service, and prohibition - he still would have had my vote. The glow that emanated from his candidacy was only diminished when Tim Davlin seconded his adoration for the tastiest bird known to man, leaving the two in a virtual dead heat leading up to the general election.

Mayor Davlin has not come through on what I perceived as a promise to return Chick-fil-A to Springfield, devoting his time instead to such trivial matters as libraries and lawsuits.

On occasion, I still visit the mecca of my youth. My in-laws spend winters in Florida, a land rich in Chick-fil-A’s. A brother in Indianapolis lives just minutes from a freestanding outlet. But for the time being, my children will be forced to endure an existence without it. And for that, we are all the lesser.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Capital Airport

Question: When was Springfield's Capital Airport officially opened?

Answer: November 2, 1947.

This picture shows the original terminal.

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I got this photo from the Springfield Aviation History link to the left. The page linked to is actually part of a larger web site called AreoKnow. This site is based her in Springfield and is dedicated not only to local aviation history but many aspects of aviation here and around the world, including aircraft model building, air shows and aviation news. I like this sort of stuff and I plan to use them as a resource here in the future.

Here's what the Springfield Aviation History page says:
What we know about Springfield, Illinois aviation-related businesses, aviators from Springfield and Springfield area airports. If you have history that should be shared here, please contact AeroKnow so that we may borrow, carefully copy your pictures or documents and return them. We also want to interview anyone who worked at Springfield area airports or had careers in flying or other parts of aviation for our oral history recording effort. Please contact us if you have a story to tell or know of someone with a story to tell.
In addition to that statement, they only have three pictures currently posted on that page. However, if you explore the whole web site (their home page is here) you will find many other old photos. Also, if you have anything of interest to them, please contribute.

In my own lifetime, I’ve witnessed a number of changes out at the airport. My first memories are from the mid to late 1960s when my mother would pack up all the kids and take us out to meet my father who would be returning from this or that business trip. Back then, there was an outdoor, second story observation deck you could go up to and watch the planes go in and out. That disappeared in the early 1970s when security first became an issue. At that point, only passengers were allowed through the “gates”.

I also remember the exhilaration I got on those early visits when the Air National Guard jets would take off. The noise and vibration were overwhelming. It was all very exiting.

Those were also the days when the airport was served almost exclusively by the now defunct Ozark Airlines; their green and white planes landing and taking off with great regularity.

I remember the control tower being on top of the terminal back then too. The new tower, the one in use today, sits apart from the terminal some distance away.

Anyone else got any Capital Airport memories? Anyone remember Springfield’s Southwest Airport located off of Chatham road somewhere (I don’t remember it but I know it was there)?

I’m sure I’ll be returning to the subject of Springfield aviation again.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Georgian On My Mind

The State Journal-Register has the sad news today that the Georgian restaurant building on South Grand will face the wrecking ball. It opened in 1941 and closed (as a restaurant) in 1986; in between it was one of the first 24-hour eateries in Springfield. I may have eaten there once as a child (I have a very vague memory of it); by the time I hit college-age, Mr. Ted's or Denny's had become the overnight food hangouts. I also dined once in the wee hours at the old Steak and Egg on S. MacArthur, where I was stunned to learn that they didn't have French toast on the menu. The waitress offered to have the cook make up some special for me, which was great, except apparently the cook didn't know how to make French toast. I don't really know what he did to it, but God, it was horrible.

Let's have your memories of the Georgian and the other places to get a burger (and God knows what else) at 3 a.m.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Old State Capitol Comes Tumbling Down

No, this was not the result of terrorists or a meth lab in the basement. This was the old State Capitol being, believe it or not, systematically disassembled in 1966.

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I copied this photo form the book Springfield Time Capsules by Ed Russo, Curtis Mann and Melinda Garvert*. From the book:
The building was in the process of being razed so that excavation could begin for the underground parking lot and new Illinois State Historical Library. Origianally built in 1837 as Illinois' fifth Capitol, this building became the Sangamon County Courthouse in 1876. It was raised at the turn of the [20th] century to add another floor. The state of Illinois bought the old Capitol back in 1961 and leased it to the county government until its new County Building was finished in 1966. The demolition then began. Stones were carefully numbered and stored at the state fair grounds. The fully reconstructed Old State Capitol, sitting over the underground parking and library opened its doors tothe general public on November 15, 1969.
I remember this but barely. Two things stick in my mind: The pieces of the building strewn all over the less traveled corners of the state fair grounds and the construction seeming to take FOR-EVER. Ok, it took a little over three years, but I went from 6 years old to 9 years old and at that age three years IS forever.

A final thing. I have one very fuzzy memory of being in the building when it still housed the county offices. A visiting friend of the family took me there when I was maybe 5 and I still can picture the lettered doors to the various offices towering above me. I'm glad I made it there before it was disassembled.

Oh, and by the way, for those who don't know, the new County Building referred to in the above excerpt from the book is now what houses the city police department next to the municipal building.

*Springfield Time Capsules by Ed Russo, Curtis Mann and Melinda Garvert is published by G. Bradley Publishing, Inc. St. Louis, Missouri. I picked it up at one of thelocal bookstores but I don't remember which one.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Thrifty Drug

It hasn't been all that long since Thrifty Drugs closed up around these parts. But, does anyone remember that, at one time, there were two downtown - a block away from each other. One was at the northeast corner of Sixth and Monroe, and the other was at the northwest corner of Fifth and Monroe.

These two Thrifty Drugs had something going for them that the others did not. Fresh food.

The store at Sixth and Monroe had a little lunch counter with a grill. I recall getting an egg salad sandwich, cole slaw, and a Coke for under $2.00.

The one at Fifth and Monroe had a lunch room. Also, I think it was open before work for breakfast.

Did anyone besides me ever eat at these places?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Weathermen At WICS For 100, Alex

JeromeProphet has an amusing tale today about WICS-TV Weatherman Gus Gordon. It's funny how Ch. 20 weather people are probably the best known broadcasters in town. In fact, the most famous broadcaster of all time in Springfield was probably Flip Spiceland (and his hair) back in the 1970s. Maybe it's because we can all relate to the weather. I don't know. Flip, of course, went on to fame and fortune on CNN as a weatherman for many years (see link for picture). I think he still works in the Atlanta area.

Does anyone have a Flip Spiceland story? The only time I saw him in person was when I was in high school working at the mall. Flip was out shopping one day and I caught a glimpse of the man and his hair.

And here's a trivia question: Who was the Ch. 20 weatherman who left and was replaced by Gus Gordon? This would have been late 1980s, I believe.