Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The South Grand dining corridor

Then and now, starting at 12th & South Grand and going west to Second.

  • The Den Chilli Parlor (somewhere in the middle of the block between 12th & 11th; there may have been a couple different versions of this over the years)

  • The Southtown Grill (11th & South Grand; this is the first place my mom ever took me out to lunch; I think I had a fried egg sandwich)

  • The Georgian (southwest corner 9th & South Grand)

  • Lums (7th & South Grand; I always got the pizza burger; later became Hardee's parking lot)

  • Hardee's (6th & South Grand; this closed just a little over a month ago; noticed this weekend the property is for sale)

  • The Jackie Robinson System (between Sixth & Fifth; in later years this was a Chinese carry-out)

  • A Chinese restaurant, the name of which escapes me (a storefront on north side of South Grand between Sixth & Fifth)

  • Tops Big Boy (corner Fifth & South Grand; I was a semi-regular)

  • The Dew Chilli Parlor (on Fifth a half block north of South Grand; edited to correct name from Den to Dew)

  • Some little pie place? (on Fifth a half block south of South Grand; what was the name of that place?)

  • Hot dog, rootbeer, and candy stand inside the lobby of Sears (Second & South Grand)

  • Red Barn Chicken (2nd & South Grand)

  • Arby's

  • Rally's

  • McDonald's

  • South Grand Sandwich Shop (formerly known as Swiss Colony Cheese Shop)

  • A little Chinese place (just east of Second on South Grand; why can't I ever remember the names of Chinese restaurants?)

  • Mekong Cafe (in the location of the former Taco Trio; on Second just south of South Grand)

  • The Spaghetti Shop

  • Sunrise Cafe

And one mainstay through it all - though it's not a restaurant, it deserves some mention: Midway Liquors.

What am I forgetting? Comments, memories and corrections always welcome.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Taverns past: The Pub

Help me remember. I was driving down Spring Street going south from the Capitol Complex over the weekend when I suddenly recalled The Pub. If memory serves me, it was on the west side of Spring between Edwards and Cook. Or, possibly, between Cook and Lawrence. All traces of The Pub are gone now. Instead, there are several vacant/parking lots on that side of the street.

The place basically consisted of a large square bar five or six steps inside the front door. Off to the left was a large room with some pinball machines, dart boards, maybe a juke box, and a few tables. The Pub was best known for its free peanuts and people would throw the discarded shells on the floor. They were free, right?

I obviously wasn't a regular. And I can't even remember who I would have gone there with. I was probably last there in about 1979. Who were the regulars? State workers? Did anyone else go to the Pub? What happened to The Pub? And, where are the free peanuts these days?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The 'Deal

A photo of the intersection of Spring and Cook as it looked in 1950 is featured today on Springfield Rewind. On the right side of the photo is a view of Ideal Drugs, Liquors, and Delicatessen as seen from Spring Street.

I never visited the Ideal in 1950 since I wasn't even born yet. However, I did go there quite often in the late 70's and early 80's. By then, the delicatessen was long gone.

We called it the Ideal Lounge. Or, the Ideal. But, mostly, we just called it the 'Deal.

Back then, if a person wanted a drink on a Sunday night in Springfield, the 'Deal was not only the only place open, it was, in a word, ideal. You could enter from the backdoor and walk through the drug store to get the bar. Or, you could enter directly from the street. We, of course, preferred to walk through the drug store where we could get a view of a few sad bottles of aspirin, some support hose, and a handful of greeting cards left over from the 50's.

The 'Deal offered nothing for entertainment or atmosphere. It had a bar and several booths. I don't even recall if they had a juke box, but they must have. There were never more than five or six patrons when I was there. There was nothing proud or glorious about the 'Deal. It was just a place to get a drink. And, that's about it for the 'Deal.

Move your mouse over the Springfield Rewind photo for a view of the parking lot where the 'Deal once stood.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

S.A. Barker

S.A. Barker was located on the northeast corner of Sixth and Adams Streets in downtown Springfield, Illinois. It took up the first floor, basement, and second floor of what was then known as the Illinois Building. I don't know who owned the store, but anyone familiar with Springfield is probably well acquainted with the highly respected Barker name.

In addition to fine clothing and lingerie for women, Barker's sold top of the line make-up, jewelry, shoes, and accessories. It mostly catered to career girls and society women.

It was bigger than a boutique, but smaller than a department store. The exact layout of the store escapes me, except, haute couture was located on the second floor. Not that I could afford to buy anything up there, but it was nice place to daydream. A gentle saleslady named Dorcas was very tolerant of a 15 year old girl who fantasized about wearing high fashion.

There are a few things worth noting about Barker's that are rarely, if ever, seen in retail stores anymore.

First, the elevator: The elevator car opened on both the west side and the south side on the first floor, the west side in the basement, and the south side on the second floor. The elevator gates were highly polished brass. And, as was not at all unusual back in those days, the elevator was operated by an older woman of varying degrees of temperament.

Second, the transaction system: When a purchase was made on the first floor or the basement, the saleslady handwrote the ticket, collected the customer's money, check, or in the case of a charge account, the customer's name. She would put those items in a canister where it was vacuumed through a tube to the second floor. Then, some unseen cashier in the second floor office would send a printed receipt and any change back to the sales lady through the tube. Sales on the second floor were hand-carried directly to the cashier.

Barker's is one of the few Springfield retail establishments that not only moved to the mall, but remains there to this day. Unfortunately, it survives in name only. Whereas, the old store downtown was a place where polite ladies shopped in a refined and quiet atmosphere, shopping at today's mall version, which specializes in footwear, is quite the opposite. (Think Saturday afternoon shoe sale frenzy.) This is probably more a reflection of how society has changed than anything else.

This entry was inspired by Springfield Rewind: S.A. Barker Co. - 1960.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The SJ-R Looks Back

The Springfield Journal-Register has a link up on its web site to a series of photos from Springfield’s past. These are pictures originally published in the SJ-R. I’m not going to post any of those pictures here since the linked-to SJ-R page is dedicated solely to those pictures. Just go there and take a look. Some are quite interesting.

My favorite is the World War II bomber taking of from what is now Dirksen Parkway in 1942 after earlier having made an emergency landing.

There’s also a good aerial photo of the intersection of Wabash and Veterans Parkway from 1977, not long after White Oaks Mall opened. It was the edge of Springfield at the time and the photo shows that quite well. Hey Russ, this would be the Springfield Rewind ultimate challenge.

Hopefully the SJ-R will keep this link active for some time to come. I’d like them to do more of this.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Springfield Radio and TV History

If you are interested in radio and television history in Central Illinois, including Springfield, you should check out Doug Quick’s web site. Quick is the weatherman at Champaign’s WICD/Ch. 15. He has a long history of working in both radio and TV in the area. His site has such goodies as old radio air checks from local pop stations (many from WDBR) going back as far as 1972 and the local TV schedules from days gone by. Check out this WICS/Ch. 20 retrospective. There is a ton of information (and links to even more stuff) on this site. I've also added a link in the blog roll.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Conn's Cafeteria

This entry is prompted by memories triggered from photographs in Springfield Rewind: Monroe Between 5th & 6th - 1949, featuring the Senate Movie Theater on the north side of Monroe between Fifth and Sixth.

By the 70's, on each side of the Senate were dining establishments. You could get into both those restaurants from doorways inside the lobby of the Senate, or, of course, from the street.

Obscured in the Springfield Rewind photo is the one immediately to the west. I might be wrong, but I believe it was Conn's. Perhaps Conn's Cafeteria. The place was long and narrow. When you walked in the door from the street, there were tables in front, and towards the middle on the left was the serving line. Across from the serving line, on the right, were more tables lined up against the wall.

Some days, I would stop in Conn's on my way to work. There was one lady working there at that time of the morning. Her name was Margie. She was old, and small, and wiry. She was always nice to me.

Margie could take a cinnamon danish, and in the blink of an eye, cut it into two slices. She would butter the cut side of each half, toss them on a hot griddle, and squish them down with a trowel until both parts were heated to perfection. The whole process took about a minute and a half.

I would take that grilled danish back to my desk on the 11th floor of the Ridgely Building and just about swoon from the taste. It was so wonderfully delicious. That original taste is something I've never been able to recreate. The danish and a Coke cost a dollar.

If I got anything wrong in this entry, please let me know in the comments. I'm particularly concerned I might have got the name of the place wrong.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Looking Up

Russ's post below with the side-by-side comparisons of Springfield then and now reminded me of how much better the Old Capitol Mall looks today than it did a couple of decades ago. With so many sections of Springfield headed in the opposite direction (South MacArthur from South Grand to Town & Country shopping center is one example of a stretch that has declined precipitously; East Cook is another), what areas of Springfield are much improved from the '60s or '70s?

This might also give Russ some more ideas for side-by-side photo comparisons.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Look Back, Look Down

Downtown Springfield - 1979 (Sangamon Valley Collection)
Downtown Sprinffield - 2005 (Russ)

Here's a peek into a little project I'm working on. I haven't nailed down the format yet, but this should give you an idea what I'm going for. The idea was inspired by this website and a visit to the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library. I've started out with about 15 photos from downtown Springfield, but I'll be all over town with this project, so if there's something in particular you want to see, let me know.

Thanks to the guys at the Ameren building for taking me up to the roof for this shot. I'm scared of heights, so this was quite an adventure. You can click the image above for a higher res version.

UPDATE: The project will be called Springfield Rewind - and for now, you can find it here. I'll have to test for a while to see if Blogger will be able to handle what I'm going to be doing.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Cheap gas spotted in Springfield!!!

Ok, so it was nearly 30 years ago - but it seems like just yesterday doesn't it?

6th and South Grand - c. 1977
Photo courtesy of Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Good Times...Or Just Fair?

Here it is again -- Illinois State Fair time! And we here at LBS are all about the Fair! The food, the rides, the food, the music, and of course, the food. So let's stroll the intersection of Grandstand Avenue and Memory Lane together and recall:
  • Favorite foodstuffs (preferably deep-fried and on a stick)
  • Best rides (personally, I'm still a sucker for the Giant Slide)
  • Top concerts (believe it or not, Night Ranger and Weird Al Yankovic was a hell of a show)
  • And the worst of all of the above (Beach Boys at the Grandstand -- very very bad)

And any other miscellaneous memories you may have (like racing around the 'grounds after hours on a Channel 20 golf cart)...

Friday, August 05, 2005

Spinning The Dials On Your Philco Or Transistor Radio

With the news this week about the Sept. 5th network swap for Channel 20 and Channel 17, ending their decades-old relationships with their networks, I thought it was a good time to get your thoughts about Springfield media from the past. I'd like to hear about:
  • your favorite local TV newscasters and weathermen
  • favorite local DJs
  • worst of same
  • any memorable on-air bloopers

For my money, there will never be another Mr. Roberts on Channel 3, who by the end was laboring simply to raise his baton to point to the warm front symbols on his magnetic weather map, and who actually inspired a death pool on Central Illinois college campuses, with people placing money down to see if he would croak on-air.

I have fond memories of Skip Joeckel and the late Pat Gordon on WDBR, and before that "Crazy" Bob Murray on WCVS.

And I, of course, was responsible for the best on-air blooper in Springfield TV history, a live shot with a somewhat-indisposed First Lady of Illinois on Channel 20, circa 1988.

Have fun in comments.

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.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Old Lincoln Library

If you had asked me when I was six what my favorite place was in downtown Springfield, I undoubtedly would have said the Lincoln Library. Well, I might have said the municipal fountain but probably it would have been the library (they were next to each other anyway).

Since we are talking 1966, I am of course referring to Springfield’s old municipal library with all the marble, the large central staircase, the huge grandfather clock, and the glass floors that graced some sections.

I continued my love affair with that building until it was torn down in the mid 1970s. I was a freshman at Griffin High School the year he wrecking ball began to make way for a new, more modern library. I don’t think I understood then just how much I would miss the old building.

Thanks to Russ Friedewald of Springfield Trivia, I am able to post several pictures of the old library.

The first shot is of the front of the building itself.

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Next we have the marble staircase and the grandfather clock. This picture doesn’t do justice to how cool that staircase was. Nor do you really get a sense of how dominant the clock was as you climbed the stairs holding the brass handrails.

Then there were the glass floors. These were not everywhere in the building but were pretty cool where they did exist. This picture was taken as the library was being emptied for demolition. Therefore, the books are all gone but you can (sort of) see the glass floors. The supports with the curly ends held the shelves. The mesh cage next to the worker was (as I recall) a book elevator for getting the books up to the second floor.

Finally here is a shot of the interim library used while the new library was being built. It was a storefront on the south part of the Old State Capital Plaza. I recall it being a bit cramped but still functional. I remember reading my first Rolling Stone magazine in there in there about 1975.

These pictures are part of a Power Point presentation Russ linked to in the comments section of an earlier post. If you would like to see the whole thing (you of course need Power Point) click here. It's really great. It has pictures going back to the construction of the old library right through its, umm, deconstruction.

New Blog Members

Just a quick note that two more Springfield bloggers have joined the LBS group. Russ at Springfield Trivia and Marie from Disarranging Mine have both agreed to contribute to the effort here.

Marie has indicated to me she is working on a couple of things to post here and Russ is full of trivial knowledge that is right up our alley.

Welcome both of you!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

'70s Show Prep

In addition to helping out on this fine online publication, and contributing to the clutter of the Internet on my own blog, I also have a paying gig in Springfield radio. And next week (starting Tuesday 7/5), that will include hosting the "I Love the '70s Lunch" on WNNS (98.7 FM). So I'd like to pepper that with authentic '70s memories of Springfield. I've lived here my whole life, but spent most of the '70s in a drug-induced haze.... um, I mean, surrounded by the nuns at St. Cabrini. So help fill in the blanks.

You know the drill: favorite hangouts, restaurants, what movies played in what theatres, what were the great concerts of the decade locally, best rides at the fair, etc. I'll read the best comments on the air

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

To Quote Petula Clark: You Can Always Go -- Downtown

Thanks, Dave, for setting this up. For my first contribution, I'd like to offer a reminiscence from childhood. After half-day kindergarten at Pleasant Hill, my mom and I used to get the bus on North Milton and ride it downtown. From there, shopping at the K-Mart at Fifth and Adams, maybe the JC Penney store across from the Old State Capitol (at least I recall it being a Penney's; then I think it was temporarily the main branch of Lincoln Library until its current building was built); often it was lunch at Steak 'n' Shake on 6th Street, or maybe the Woolworth's lunch counter. In later years, my favorite stop was a record store on South Fifth (right in the area where Bridge Jewerly and Bentoh's are now); I can't think of the name of it, but I bought an awful lot of LPs there.

Favorite memories of downtown Springfield?

Up North

I wanted to initiate my part in this blog by pointing to two articles in last week's Illinois Times. Both deal with the part of Springfield with which I am probably least familiar with - the North End. I grew up on the South Side.

The first article, titled Northern Exposure, is on the old North 22nd Street neighborhood near St. Aloysius Church.
The neighborhood burgeoned in the aftermath of World War II, when the veterans returned from service, got government-backed housing loans, and settled down to the peacetime business of raising families -for most, a prolific undertaking. It was a decidedly blue-collar neighborhood with nearly similar houses that featured a downstairs bathroom and an upstairs dormer. Fathers, in the days before women entered the workforce en masse, were largely union workers -police officers, firefighters, postal workers, or employees of such long-gone concerns as Sangamo Electric and Pillsbury Mills.

According to retired educator Jim Berberet, whose family moved there in 1954, large families were the norm in those days: "Everybody, it seems, had a large family. Six, seven, eight kids -it was just not unusual. The Redpaths, for instance, had 10 kids. Getting two full sides for baseball was never a problem."

His assertion is echoed by Mike Aiello, now of Troxell Financial Advisors, who says, "I'm not exaggerating when I say that in that three- or four-block stretch of 22nd Street, there had to be at least a hundred kids, or more. We played sports and rode bikes all the time, at Fairview School or Fairview Park. Nobody wanted to stay inside -there was no air conditioning."
This is exactly the kind of stuff I would like to see on this blog. Read the whole article. If you grew up in the 50's or 60's it will sound very familiar no matter what neighborhood you lived in.

The second article reports on the Adams house, one of Springfield's oldest, that may be torn down soon.
The 147-year-old Adams House, located on the grounds of the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, would be razed to make way for a new 2,000-square-foot office building, according to plans announced recently by the Audubon Society.

The organization, which is moving its headquarters from Danville to Springfield to be closer to state government agencies, has decided that the Adams House is poorly suited to its needs and must go.

"Our members do not give us donations to restore old houses," says Marilyn Campbell, society director.

Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, 2315 E. Clear Lake Ave., consists of 30 acres of natural growth. The sanctuary was established so that urban children could learn about nature. It offers walking trails, as well as special programs throughout the year.
I've always thought the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary was a strange, but welcome, sight in the middle of a very developed area. It's a great resource too. I really hope they find a way to preserve the place. I appreciate the work of the Audubon Society and welcome them to their new digs. I just ask that they do all they can to keep the house.

Springfield, Illinois Barber College Shoe Shine Boys - Early 1960's

Back in the early 1960's my father would take me in to have a weekly buzz cut. I would have been very young at the time. We'd go to the Springfield, Illinois Barber College. I'm not really certain where it was located, but I suspect it was located in a building on Sixth Street - a building which no longer exist, as it was torn down to make room for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

I recall the first time I saw a black person was outside the Barber College. Shoe Shine Boys would be positioned just outside the Barber College entrance. Sometimes the Shoe Shine Boys would be boys, but mostly they were older men. I only saw black shoe shine boys. As you'd walk in, they often times open the door. After the haircut, on the way out they'd ask, "Get your shoes shined Sir?" They'd say it in an almost melodic manner which I'd never heard before.

I knew something wasn't quite right about it all. Perhaps it was in the quick glances from the older (old men) shoe shine boys? Those looks had a kind, but nervous quality to them. Sometimes one might crack a quick joke, and laugh at this own joke, and look down to the floor laughing. In fact they never kept eye contact for longer than just a glance.

These older black men had probably grown up in the South, under Jim Crow.

They seemed very kind, but I knew something wasn't right - almost like a secret was being screamed at me through the blazing eyes of these older black men.

My dad, who was raised in the South, was very polite to the black people who would shine shoes. My dad had had it tough during the Great Depression, and despite his southern ways, the lessons he learned while toughing it out on the streets changed him. He believed in racial equality. I could tell that my father was teaching me a lesson. My first lesson in race, from my father was teaching me to treat blacks kindly.

I know now what they were saying with their eyes. They were saying, you be a good little boy, and grow up to see the truth. Don't hate, and help to make a better world. Call me crazy, but that was the feeling I get today when I think back at those looks - or perhaps it's just my guilt.



Welcome to Look Back Springfield. Come here to relive or learn about how Springfield once was –ten years ago or 200 years ago.

This place is dedicated to Springfield nostalgia and history. It is a collaborative effort with several regular contributors posting from time to time. Of course everyone is welcome to participate via the comments sections and postings may be submitted via email if you like.

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