Judy Baar Topinka

My brother Rich’s column on JBT and her death mentions me in it, so of course I’m going to post it here.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka had a stroke the morning of Dec. 9, but that’s not what killed her. In fact, by that afternoon, she announced she was going to walk to the restroom. Her chief of staff Nancy Kimme told her not to try because she was paralyzed on her left side. In mocking defiance, Topinka started kicking her no longer paralyzed leg.

By early evening, medical staff told Topinka that she’d be out of the hospital in a few days and would then need three weeks of rehabilitation. The indestructible Topinka appeared to have won again, just like she did after she fell and broke her hip and badly injured her back after giving a speech in 2012. The accident slowed her down, but it never stopped her, never silenced her, never broke her spirit, never stopped her from running for re-election.

What finally felled Topinka was completely unexpected. Hours after her speedy recovery, Topinka fell asleep. A massive blood clot somehow withstood her blood-thinning medication and got around a clot trap installed beneath her rib cage and entered her lung.

The end came quickly.

In a matter of seconds, we lost not only one of our state’s strongest voices for financial prudence, its most consistently successful female statewide elected official, its most pro-union, pro-gay rights Republican, but also its most human politician.

My brother Doug met Topinka when he was with me at an event. Doug posted this on his Facebook page the day she died: “She was the first statewide elected official I ever met that I thought ‘Hey, she’s just a regular person like the rest of us.'”

Judy only talked down to dunderheads. Everyone else was treated like an old friend, and she just had that way about her that you knew she meant it.

I once had lunch with Judy in her west suburban state Senate district. She took me to a local Bohemian place and I barely got to talk to her. She knew, by name, just about everyone at that restaurant. People literally lined up to shake her hand and chat with her the entire time we were there. She’d hug them, ask about their children, their aunts, their cousins, mostly by name. She never lost that smile, even while she was eating.

‘LET THEM PRAY’

She often told stories about when she served in the Illinois House of Representatives during the height of the Equal Rights Amendment debate. Ultraconservative women, she’d humorously recall, would often grab her arm, fall to their knees and pray for her.

What did you do? I asked.

“I let them pray!” the ERA supporter hooted. She thanked them for their prayers and continued on her merry way.

Topinka was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1984, after first building a House constituent services program unlike almost anywhere else. Her phone number was always public, and she would get calls at her home at all hours, once from a constituent during the middle of the night with a cat up a tree. She served not only her own constituents, but also those who lived in the neighboring district represented by former Democratic Senate President Phil Rock, who was often too busy with the affairs of state to handle mundane constituent requests.

Born to immigrant parents, Topinka graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She went on to write a column called “Let’s Talk” for the Berwyn-Cicero Life newspaper. Former state Rep. Jack Kubik, who once represented half of Judy’s Senate district, said it was the most-read column in his family’s newspaper. It was all about political stuff that nobody else was writing about. The two of us were a natural fit.

I first encountered Judy not long after I was hired as Hannah Information’s Statehouse columnist in 1990. She was fascinated by the company’s “new wave” technology and my “alternative” form of journalism. Her Senate office quickly became my second home.

Few would talk to me back then because I wasn’t anybody. We were both “nobody what nobody sent” and we reveled in it. Topinka was elected to her first House term over the opposition of the local party bosses. I started writing about Statehouse politics for a little technology startup.

Judy helped teach me how to be successful in this crazy business. She also taught me to treat strangers and acquaintances like old friends, because one day they could be.

I loved that woman.

A contributing columnist to Crain’s, Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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And You Think You Had a Rough Day

My mother and her sister Janet have been working on stories from when they were younger, my mom posted this today. My great aunt Lil who this is about is still alive and still writes my Mom every week. My mom, in turn sits down and writes a letter back to her as they have done for years.

Mt. Vernon, Illinois on a summer day in 1946.

My mother and we three girls traveled from Pontiac, IL, to Mt. Vernon on our way to Evansville, Indiana. I was 5, Barb was 3 and Jeanne was 2 and mom was pregnant with Kenny. My Aunt Lil’s husband had just passed away and we were on our way to his funeral. He had died suddenly at the age of 37. Aunt Lil was 31 and her only living son Alan was 6. Three years earlier their son, Larry, had died at the age of 4. We always heard the story of a needle getting into Larry’s knee as he crawled on the floor in their home. An infection set in and the poor little boy developed a high fever and eventually died. Lil was devastated with Larry’s death and now her young husband was dead leaving her a widow with a young boy of 6.
Lil had met flamboyant, farm laborer, Theron Steve Carney, near her father’s home near Shawneetown. They married (I think eloped) in the Depression Year of 1938. They are shown on the 1940 Census living in nearby Hamilton County with George Juenger, her dad, age 67, Steve Theron Carney age 31, Larry Carney, age 1. Lil’s mom, Elizabeth Renschler Juenger, had died in August 4, 1936 of stomach cancer. My mom had come home from working at the underwear factory in Carmi to stay with her mom and care for her until her death. She and Dad married on December 12, 1936 in Fairfield Methodist Church.

Death had taken its toll on Mom’s family. Ten year old Nelly and baby Effie had died of typhoid fever in 1914. Beautiful, seventeen year old sister Carrie died October 14, 1935, of appendicitis. Her Mom, Lizzie, was so distraught at the death of her last child that she could not go to her funeral. We have a photo of her at the grave of Carrie. Both Aunt Lil and Mom always said they thought that their mother had died of heartbreak from her daughter’s death.

Grandfather Juenger passed away May 8, 1940 at his home near Enfield where Aunt Lil and her family resided with him.

But now back to that 1946 day. Dad had put us on the B and O Train at the depot in Pontiac that morning. We probably carried a modest shopping bag for a few clothes, a baby doll, and a couple of sandwiches. This brown paper bag allowed mom a place to put her purse while she escorted us to the restroom on the train. We basically sat by the window watching the flat farmland and small villages pass. The steam locomotive train made numerous stops for mail at larger towns and to take on new passengers who were traveling south. We had met the conductor when he looked at our tickets, but these new people were a bit scary for little people from a farm near Graymont. This was a first train ride for mom too.

Dad had chores at the farm to tend to and could not leave. The decision had not been made when Mom and we three girls left whether or not he would fetch us or we would return by train and bus.
The conductor alerted us as we neared the city of Mt. Vernon that we would have to leave this train and transfer to a bus for the final leg of our journey to Evansville, IN.

Through the windows of the passenger car, we saw our locomotive had pulled into a large, round building that had huge windows lining the building’s exterior. Suet clung to the windows of this building which muted the light coming in. When the train drew to a stop, we carefully lined up in the aisle holding on to the scratchy wool seat backs like those where we had just sat. Mom instructed us that when we left the train we were to hold hands and not let go. The conductor helped us down the narrow steps and into the humid weather of southern IL. The air was filled with the smell of burning coal smoke and the hot rush of steam. The trains steel wheels looked so sharp and foreboding. Mom reminded us for the 3rd or 4th time, “Jeanne hold onto to my hand and Barb take my other hand and Janet take Barb’s hand, and don’t let go.”

We went into the depot where Mom checked on her bus ticket to complete our trip. We had an hour to wait for the bus to leave.

When we left the terminal I remember the huge crowds on the sidewalks. There may not have been huge crowds, but in my limited experience it seemed that way to me. Mom saw the Woolworth’s 5 and 10 cent store on Main Street in Mt. Vernon and thought that would be a good spot to spend our hour looking at novelties not available in our area at home. The store was crowded and we continued to hold hands. Mom found a cute, blue ceramic lamb planter that she probably spent 10 cents on. The clerk wrapped the lamb in tissue paper and then in brown wrapping paper and Mom placed it in her shopping bag. Barb and I looked at crayons, but the clerk told us not to touch them.

We left Woolworth’s tightly holding hands as Mom redirected. We were on the corner of Main and 3rd St. I remember a policeman directing the car traffic and telling pedestrians when to cross. All of a sudden, I looked up to see two year old Jeanne pulling out of Mom’s hand and running into the busy traffic. A car was approaching. We all yelled at Jeanne, but she was so tired of being held in restraint and she just wanted to run that she did not stop. Mom was frantic and she pulled Barb and me into the traffic with her as she ran after Jeanne. The policeman saw what was happening and stopped the car traffic and let us cross the street before the rest of the crowd was allowed to cross. Seventy years later, I can still relive this scenario and how we almost ended up in the hospital or worse the morgue.

As we returned to the depot, a man told us the suety building was a roundhouse. These huge, monstrous steam locomotives could not switch direction or go in reverse. This roundhouse had a large circle of track with flat slabs of steel track in the middle. The locomotives went into the circle and were moved physically and by switches to match up with passenger cars leading back north.

After that terrifying experience it was time to board the bus for the final leg of our journey. We were exhausted and more than ready to complete our trip. Jeanne was instructed to sit on Mom’s lap and we sat next to them. All of us kids slept and Mom rested her eyes, but stayed alert enough to wake if Jeanne tried to get down and have another adventure.

At Evansville, Mom’s older sister Minnie met us along with her older daughters to take us to Aunt Lil’s home for the wake and funeral. Barb remembers someone setting up an ironing board to do last minute pressing of funeral clothes in the Aunt Lil’s bedroom. Adjoining that bedroom was the living room where the casket containing Steve’s remains sat open I remember the two doors (front and back) of Lil’s small home that was used for the in and out movement of friends and family paying their respects. In other words they would come in the front door and exit the back door.

I think Dad found someone to do his chores so he could come down over the weekend to get us. Mom was not going back home on the bus and train with the 3 of us.

For all you parents out there, remember our young ages 5, 3, and 2 when we made this trip. And yet bits and pieces are very vivid in our memory to this day. Kids have long memories so you want to make them as happy as you can.

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Vote Yes Financials

I was forwarded the financials for the Keller ISD “Vote Yes” bond today and since Bud Kennedy, FWST and Keller Citizen will all report on the Vote No financials, I thought I’d put up a post on the Vote Yes folks.

You can tell by looking at their financials that they gathered most of their money from Architects and General Contractors that are in line to get hundreds of millions in contracts if the bond passes. They will tout that the Vote No money came from out of district, but look at the numbers and you will see other than a handful of folks, all of their money comes from people that are going to line their pockets.

Ask yourself why the cost of building a school is estimated to be $260/sq ft? Ask yourself why KISD doesn’t put out their jobs to bid, but rather “negotiates” their professional services (architects and engineers) and uses the same General Contractors with a scheme called “Contract Manager at Risk” that doesn’t require them to competitively bid the work?

Ask yourself why the leader of the Pro Bond folks is Liberal Democrat Shane Hardin, a man so vile that even the Tarrant County Democratic Party distances himself from him?

And finally ask yourself if they have such great grassroots support, why are they paying somebody $1,750 to put up their road signs? I’ve worked on too many campaigns to count, and the only time we ever had professional sign folks were in State Senate races and above, ones where the area was too large to coordinate sign placements. I guess if you are used to spending other people’s money, it’s easy to spend a paltry $1,750 on sign placement.

 

ProBondFinancial10.27

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You Might Start With An Apology

The Mayor of Keller released this statement today about the upcoming election:

As mayor, I need your help!


Keller voters will be selecting a new city council member in the Nov. 4 election. Three gentlemen — Armin Mizani, Frank Roszell and Christopher Whatley — are running to finish the Place 2 term of resigned Councilman Gary Reaves, and the victor will presumably run for re-election next May to serve a full three-year term. So whom will I be supporting? It’s a common enough question of late, but one I won’t be answering publicly.
Our election this past spring took a toll on this community. Lines were drawn, sides were chosen, and arguments broke out among neighbors and friends. That’s not what I want for Keller. This community is at its best when its citizens are working toward common goals and their elected representatives are focused on the best interests of the entire city.


Going into meetings with each of the candidates, my considerations were these: I want someone open-minded, who will listen to all of our citizens and thoughtfully weigh the pros and cons of each issue; I want someone creative, focused on putting their time and effort into finding solutions rather than building obstacles; I want someone invested in the long-term success of Keller, whose interest in public service extends beyond a single issue or outcome; and I want someone willing to put in the time, understanding that the goals we have as a community take planning, debate and dedication to accomplish.


What are your considerations? Have you met all three candidates? Researched their platforms? Listened open-mindedly to those citizens who disagree with you to gain additional perspective?
Voting is a privilege, but it is also a responsibility. I challenge you to take that responsibility seriously in the weeks ahead. Don’t let a neighbor, an email, an endorsement or even your spouse (sorry, honey!) make up your mind for you; and don’t let life’s daily commitments keep you from the polls. You owe that to yourself, your family and this community.


So I hope you understand why, as mayor, I won’t be endorsing a candidate this fall. I look forward to joining you at the polls to make this decision together, and to welcoming and working alongside whomever our citizens select.
Mayor of Keller Mark Mathews

Let’s take a minute to break down his statement. First, Mr. Mayor, you were complicit in tearing this community apart. Not just during the election cycle, where you were part of a very dirty campaign, one that sunk to new lows in Keller. You were complicit in Keller drawing battleground based upon whether they lived north of Johnson Road or south.

Hey, campaigns are campaigns, and you could be forgiven for a hard fought win, but you continued your scorched earth policy once in office. You summarily dismissed all the boards and commission members and replaced them with your political cronies. Over 200 years of experience of volunteers serving this community were flushed down the drain. Citizens that had worked for multiple administrations, people that were far from politically active and who just wanted to serve the community. And you did this with such a lack of transparency to make the whole town distrust your leadership. You were even forced by City staff to contact members that had served the community for 25 years!

You and the current members are so petty, that you haven’t even issued the plaques to the former Council members and the former Mayor. They lay sitting in a city office. But you want the citizens to move on past the last election but you can’t move past it yourself.

You also looked the other way when good employees were forced out of their jobs, and when the City Manager decided his neck was the next one to be chopped he headed for the door as well. Now you are in a pickle, the town that is in jeopardy of not finding a good candidate for City Manager. If I were you, I’d be calling Dan O’Leary and getting him in there to offer you some advice on how to turn around the City. Because if the next City Manager isn’t a strong one, the whole City has a better than even chance of becoming a high income Watauga. Stuck in cycle after cycle of infighting and developers running for the doors. Nobody in their right mind would invest millions of dollars in a project in Keller right now, and you know it.

Now where do you find yourself? With no allies on Council other than Barnes, and Dodge and Bryan looking to add to their craziness roster. You are desperate and it shows.

Well Mr. Mayor, if you want to bring the community back together, start by issuing an apology to the citizens for your deeds these last eight months.

Otherwise, you are barking up the wrong tree by trying to come hat in hand to save your own ass without first admitting your part in this.

And let me add this, Mr. Mayor, voting isn’t a privilege, it’s a right. There is a huge distinction.

 

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Memories from my Aunt Janet

When I was young, my grandfather still farmed the “Donley Place” and I drove the Massey Harris and Massey Ferguson tractors that my grandfather had purchased when my mom and my aunt were younger. He used those tractors to the day he died.

My mom is still very “thrifty” to this day, and her biggest fear has always been to be poor again.

Donley Place 1955
Donley Place 1955

The Summer That Changed our Life, written by Jan Janet Bollheimer and edited by Barb MIller
The Summer Visit That Changed Our Family’s Life

A golden field of oat stubble was the site of our memorable summer picnic dinner. It was the summer of 1951. Mom had prepared fried chicken in her aluminum Dutch oven pan and wrapped the pan in newspapers to keep it hot for our hour journey to what might become our new home. We made our journey in Dad’s old, black 1930’s Ford coupe which Dad had bought used—three girls, ages 10-7, squished together in the back seat and young Kenny sitting in the front, bench seat between Mom and Dad. The hour-long journey took us from our river home near Pontiac, Illinois, through the villages of Saunemin and Cullom, and north on what was known as the “one way slab” to a farm near the village of Herscher, Illinois. Where we were going on this sunny day and what we found at the end of that road and the tremendous affect it had on our lives is the essence of this story which so much resembles Laura Ingalls Wilders’ book, Little House on the Prairie.
Dad was to rent and farm the land where we had our picnic. The land was 160 acres of fertile land albeit peppered with lots of small rocks left as the glacier moved through the area a millennium before. The like-new two story house with four bedrooms and outhouse became our happy home for the next six years.
We were so glad that Dad and Mom had liked the farm on that Sunday in July, 1951. Later that same summer, we moved our meager belongings from our flood-ravaged, river home on the Vermillion River to the flatlands near Kankakee. A small, spring-fed creek on the new property was the only water that might get out of its bank, but it would not take out our entire cash crop, gardens, and destroy our home and outbuildings as had the swift moving Vermillion River on July 10th, 1950.
Barb remembers that she asked one of our cousins who drove the cattle truck with our belongings on it, “Where are we going?” The driver replied, “Why, to Herscher, your new home.” Barb thought he said, “Hershey” and she was thrilled to hear that we were moving to the land where the Hershey bars were made!
I can remember two teenage cousins singing Harry Bellefonte’s “Shrimp Boats are a Coming”, as they unloaded our valued family heirloom library table into the large living room. The rest of the furniture they helped unload were only the basics— beds, a couch, and table and chairs which Dad purchased at farm auctions throughout the years.
Life-long friends, Glen and Lucille Ahrends from Greymont, IL, brought a delicious meat loaf dinner for our movers and stayed in the afternoon to help. Lucille worked with Mom as they set up and made the beds. Glen and Dad made another trip to the river house to load the cows, chickens, and Troubles, our dog. The animals were set into their new barn, chicken house, and shed.
Functionality was the theme of our Depression-Era like family. What little money there was Mom and Dad spent on seed and gasoline for the tractor and feed for the animals, not nice furniture or clothing or store-brought food. Actually, during those first years on the Herscher farm, the only food purchases at the local grocery store in Herscher (where the clerk took the food down from the shelves as you asked for it) were flour, sugar, and coffee. Everything else was made at home or came from our farm, orchards, and garden. But we had love and cared for each other and were encouraged to think out of the box when making decisions.
We kids started school in late August, getting on the school bus for our long ride to the new Herscher Grade School. I was in fifth grade, Barb in third grade, Jeanne in second grade, and Kenny in first grade. Dad got on the school bus that first morning to tell the driver that Kenny had trouble walking up and down the steps and to ask the driver to protect him, “Please”. Kenny was born with cerebral palsy and had very limited use of his right arm and hand and his right heel cord was shorter than normal, so he walked with a limp.
At school, we registered ourselves telling our teachers that our last school was Oswego. The Herscher Schools offered a classroom for each grade all in the one building and a cafeteria with hot food and a very nice, indoor bathroom! We had come from a very rural school where, although we did have bus service, two grades were housed in each old, one-room school house that had been pulled to the site from throughout the township for a consolidated school called Oswego. Each teacher was responsible for two grades in each building. For lunch each day, we only had cold sandwiches. For us, that meant two pieces of bread spread with Mom’s homemade grape jelly. So you can imagine what having a hot school lunch meant to us.
The teachers at Herscher encouraged us to complete projects related to our readings (our favorite was a multiple page marketing booklet to invite families to our Colorado dude ranch) and to collect, label, and make books of wild flowers, insects, leaves, and rocks. We learned and recited poems like Eugene Fields’ “Three Men in a Tub” and “If” by Rupert Kipling. We picked up a handful of dirt at recess and learned it was part of the Mississippi River Basin. We made friends and giggled for what seemed like the first time.
Some Sunday afternoons, we visited Aunt Grace in Cullom and loved to watch the “Sealtest Circus” on her television set. We asked Dad if might get a television. We were just starting over financially and money was at a premium. But that fall, there was a lot of ear corn left in the fields after the harvest. It could be picked up, put on a wagon, and sold at the local elevator. A deal was struck amongst us kids with Dad. I would drive the old Massey Harris tractor and pull a grain wagon. (Dad had brought the old Massey from the river farm.) The three younger kids would pick up the field corn left in the field and throw it into the wagon. All of us kids bundled up on three cold Saturdays in November and picked up the ears of corn left in the field. As part of our bargain, when we had filled the wagon, Dad would decide whether we had collected corn to purchase a television. It turned out there was enough money and Dad kept his promise as he always would. In early December, Dad and Mom brought home a new cabinet black and white television set that took up a lot of room in our living room. Entering the front room after getting off the bus, we saw it! “Pinky Lee” was on and then “Howdy Dowdy”, brought in by the “rabbit ears” setting atop the cabinet. A few weeks later Dad put together a huge outdoor antenna and set it in the ground beside our house to get better reception. From this experience we learned trust and the necessity of a work ethic to meet our family goals and to get something we wanted. In retrospect, I doubt very much whether that wagon full of corn entirely paid for the TV, but it taught us valuable lessons.
There was no discrimination against females in farming in the 1950’s. If you could reach the pedals, you could drive a tractor, either as a boy or girl. As a farm kid you were expected to help out on the farm with the animals and the garden, whether you liked it or not.
Barb reminded me of the afternoon on the Donley Place which is how the farm outside Herscher was known to us as, when she was only ten years old. Her job was to drive the old Massie Harris tractor. The tractor had a dangerous design. The two front wheels were close together and located under the front of the engine. Two back tires were large and set high under a small fender on the sides of the seat when Barb drove the tractor over a curved ditch on the farm. Barb had driven a tractor at the river since she was six, but this day, the ditch won. I saw the tractor begin to lean over and was scared to death! Petite, but muscular, Barb kept her hands on the wheel and did not leave her seat. The tractor was not damaged and was up-righted. Soon afterward Dad purchased an Allis Chambers tractor with evenly spaced four wheels, safer for all.
Dad found us a spot at the local 4-H club, the Milks Grove Farmerettes. We met neighbor girls and worked side-by-side with our 4-H leaders to learn how to make simple meals and how to sew an elastic band skirt and fringed scarf. We learned to give speeches and demonstrations and take on responsibilities as officers in the club.He loved his ten Guernsey dairy cows which we needed for milk. We consumed the milk and used it to make butter and then sold what we didn’t use to a dairy hauler. But, he dreamed of having a herd of registered, beef cattle and he devised a plan in his head to achieve that goal.
At that point in time, there were separate 4-H clubs for boys and girls, but girls could join one or both. I don’t remember any boys being in the girls’ club. Dad purchased $200 young, registered Hereford heifers for us. Dad was thrifty and knew how to “drive a good deal.” These first 2 Herefords fit his budget and fit his ultimate goal of owning a registered beef herd.
We joined the Milks Grove Farmers club and took on took additional leadership responsibility and exhibited our heifers at the Iroquois County 4-H Fair in July. But we also had to get our brownies made, vegetables canned, clothing projects completed, and posters made for our Brownie camera photo display before we could load our calves in Dad’s old cattle truck for the fair in Milford, an hours drive away. We were able to dress in pants at the fair, for this was a working experience. We hung out with the guys at the fair and ate free pickles and drank water at the church food stand. There was no money for us to eat at the food stands in the early days, nor to take a cooling spin on the carnival rides.
Before showing our cattle, we had to bathe them. We used Wisk for that. Wisk was a liquid detergent that was launched in 1956. We didn’t use it for the family laundry because it was too expensive. But Dad bought it and we used it on our beautiful red and white Hereford calves because he thought it made the white on the cows’ manes and spots extra white. After scrubbing the heifers up well, we rinsed them down with a hose, curry-combed their hair into pretty waves, and teased up the ends of their tails before taking them into the show ring before the critical, sharp eyed judges.
We showed our gentle, tuned down horned cows, Mickey and Cally, for the judges who evaluated them on their build and for our showmanship with the animals. We worked with our calves weeks prior to the fair leading them in donated Purina Halters and squaring their legs with a specially designed stick while holding their heads just high enough to show off their best qualities. Dad taught us to follow the judge’s eyes and to make sure that we looked at him and so did our cattle. We talked quietly to the cows to calm them and to get them to lead in a circle with seamless motion, without any jerking actions. We used the stick not only to square off the calf’s legs just right, but to rub their bellies while the judge was looking. Dad taught us how to humbly receive blue and a few purple rosette ribbons for our animals and for showmanship. We generally got A’s on our home economics projects too.
During that time we met a wonderful lady who had just moved to our neighborhood. Daphane had a crippled left arm caused by a recent case of polio. She maneuvered her left hand easily with her right hand. Daphane took us under her wing and taught us how to sew beautiful dresses with difficult patterns and techniques for our 4-H projects. We loved patient and creative Daphane as she created the tradition of Christmas fudge-making night’s tradition, taught us to use our home grown eggs for the best chiffon cakes, and how to use our home grown hamburger and catsup for the sloppy joe recipe that we use to this day. On a side note which shows how close all our lives are connected, Daphane’s husband, Felix, used to date our Mom in southern IL White County before she met our Dad. Felix also worked at General Foods when Barb worked there for a short time in the early 60’s and he worked with Barb’s future mother-in-law, Grandma Cuz, for many years. They became friends as well. It is a small world.
Mom and Dad were both entrepreneurs in their day. Dad, of course, farmed his 160 acres but also rented another 120 acre plot across the road from the Donley Place where he planted oats, corn, and soybeans. Dad was known in the area as a good farmer, knowing when to plant, cultivate, and reap. Five farmers in the immediate area of the section owned large pieces of farm equipment together, not new equipment but used equipment. The largest was the huge threshing machine they brought to our back forty of oats. When Mom and we four kids brought lunch to the threshers, we saw the dusty chaff from the oats thrown out the rear of that huge, roaring machine. The men took a short break and ate the roast beef dinner with homemade pie that we set out on the straw wagon.
Our neighbors, Jimmy Bowers; Kenny Walsh; Clyde Carmain; Mike Kroll; and Bill Stone worked together to bale hay, harvest corn and shell the corn. (Corn was not shelled in the field then as it is now. It was harvested on the cob and put in cribs that way. Later, the corn was shelled by a special “shelling” machine and then hauled to the elevator to sell.)
The men always ate well at each house where they worked. A lunch was brought to the field at ten in the morning, a full meal was eaten at the dining table of the host family, and another lunch was taken to the field about three. Guess who worked with Mom to prepare all of this food? Barb and I. Mom made three or four kinds of pies each day and began the roast early. We kids made salads and sandwiches, set the dining table, and made the Kool Aid (in later years and before that ice water) and coffee. The only exception was that for Jimmy Bowers we made tea because he had to have it for his ulcers. What a production!
Did I mention that I was driving the car in the fields and on the back roads when I was 13? Lunches had to be taken to the men in the fields. Mom did not drive.
Mom was an entrepreneur too. She bought baby chicks and raised them to become hens which lay eggs in her hen house. She was picky in the way the eggs were gathered so as not to anger the hens. I did not like picking up eggs, so Barb and I cased the eggs for the “egg man” that came to the farm every week to purchase them. Mom wrote down every transaction for the ten or so years she collected funds for us kids. Her egg book is still part of our family legacy. The roosters on the other hand, when they reached the right size, were killed, feathers picked after being plunked into a cauldron of hot water, and cut up to be frozen or for meals like the one that we brought with us to the farm in the summer of 1951. Of course, we were expected to help with that operation. Barb has a hard time eating chicken to this day because it brings to her mind that awful smell of hot feathers.
You see that Mom used that money for our hot lunches, our class rings, our yearbooks, our school clothes, and any special dresses we needed for church or school dances and graduation. Barb and I wore one of those special dresses on a 4-H trip to dine at Chicago’s Marshall Fields’ Walnut Room and to tour the Cracker Jack Factory.
When I joined the Methodist Church, Mom took me to Pontiac to J.C. Penney’s for a new dress. I wore that dress for my eighth grade graduation when three of my classmates and shy me were asked to compose and read the “Eighth Grade Will and Prophecy”. We wrote the Will and Prophecy on our own during the Saturdays in May. (Barb was also chosen by Mrs. Dickman, our eighth grade teacher and principal to write and read the “Eighth Grade Will and Prophecy” at her graduation.) The summer after my 8th grade graduation, I went with our Methodist Church and the rest of the new confirmation class to the Chicago Pacific Garden Mission to see a live radio broadcast. The broadcast depicted how Skid Row residents were being rehabbed by the mission. I think the church was trying to show us that drinking could lead to a life of ruination.
Mom rarely used her money to buy anything for herself. There was no money in the family budget for these special trips and dresses, rings, etc. from the cash crops Dad raised. It was Mom who provided them for us kids by the chickens that she raised. And we appreciated and loved her for all that she did to make our dreams come true.
This farm, five miles from any town, was a wonderful spot for our family. We rode our bikes, waxed down a fallen metal roof with waxed paper and slid hours on it, played kick the can in the evening with cousins, watched Dad “dowse” for water with a young sapling, cut delicious asparagus from an old, overrun cemetery up the road a bit, climbed fruit trees in our own orchard, played in the small creek on hot days, milked cows with and without a machine, and started our 4-H adventure. We learned to be a kid as well as a young adult on this working farm of the 50’s in Central Illinois.
I truly believe that our family had more opportunities available at this new place than if we had stayed on the scary, river farm in Livingston County. That sunny day, sitting on a worn comforter in the oat stubble, eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes led to our Dad’s decision that the Donley Place was where we should make our home. The house and buildings of that farm are long gone, but Rich, Barb’s husband, went back one time and picked up some rocks from the area where the house has stood and she has them in her flower garden as a remembrance of the good times we shared there.The Summer That Changed our Life, written by Jan Janet Bollheimer and edited by Barb MIller
The Summer Visit That Changed Our Family’s Life
A golden field of oat stubble was the site of our memorable summer picnic dinner. It was the summer of 1951. Mom had prepared fried chicken in her aluminum Dutch oven pan and wrapped the pan in newspapers to keep it hot for our hour journey to what might become our new home. We made our journey in Dad’s old, black 1930’s Ford coupe which Dad had bought used—three girls, ages 10-7, squished together in the back seat and young Kenny sitting in the front, bench seat between Mom and Dad. The hour-long journey took us from our river home near Pontiac, Illinois, through the villages of Saunemin and Cullom, and north on what was known as the “one way slab” to a farm near the village of Herscher, Illinois. Where we were going on this sunny day and what we found at the end of that road and the tremendous affect it had on our lives is the essence of this story which so much resembles Laura Ingalls Wilders’ book, Little House on the Prairie.
Dad was to rent and farm the land where we had our picnic. The land was 160 acres of fertile land albeit peppered with lots of small rocks left as the glacier moved through the area a millennium before. The like-new two story house with four bedrooms and outhouse became our happy home for the next six years.
We were so glad that Dad and Mom had liked the farm on that Sunday in July, 1951. Later that same summer, we moved our meager belongings from our flood-ravaged, river home on the Vermillion River to the flatlands near Kankakee. A small, spring-fed creek on the new property was the only water that might get out of its bank, but it would not take out our entire cash crop, gardens, and destroy our home and outbuildings as had the swift moving Vermillion River on July 10th, 1950.
Barb remembers that she asked one of our cousins who drove the cattle truck with our belongings on it, “Where are we going?” The driver replied, “Why, to Herscher, your new home.” Barb thought he said, “Hershey” and she was thrilled to hear that we were moving to the land where the Hershey bars were made!
I can remember two teenage cousins singing Harry Bellefonte’s “Shrimp Boats are a Coming”, as they unloaded our valued family heirloom library table into the large living room. The rest of the furniture they helped unload were only the basics— beds, a couch, and table and chairs which Dad purchased at farm auctions throughout the years.
Life-long friends, Glen and Lucille Ahrends from Greymont, IL, brought a delicious meat loaf dinner for our movers and stayed in the afternoon to help. Lucille worked with Mom as they set up and made the beds. Glen and Dad made another trip to the river house to load the cows, chickens, and Troubles, our dog. The animals were set into their new barn, chicken house, and shed.
Functionality was the theme of our Depression-Era like family. What little money there was Mom and Dad spent on seed and gasoline for the tractor and feed for the animals, not nice furniture or clothing or store-brought food. Actually, during those first years on the Herscher farm, the only food purchases at the local grocery store in Herscher (where the clerk took the food down from the shelves as you asked for it) were flour, sugar, and coffee. Everything else was made at home or came from our farm, orchards, and garden. But we had love and cared for each other and were encouraged to think out of the box when making decisions.
We kids started school in late August, getting on the school bus for our long ride to the new Herscher Grade School. I was in fifth grade, Barb in third grade, Jeanne in second grade, and Kenny in first grade. Dad got on the school bus that first morning to tell the driver that Kenny had trouble walking up and down the steps and to ask the driver to protect him, “Please”. Kenny was born with cerebral palsy and had very limited use of his right arm and hand and his right heel cord was shorter than normal, so he walked with a limp.
At school, we registered ourselves telling our teachers that our last school was Oswego. The Herscher Schools offered a classroom for each grade all in the one building and a cafeteria with hot food and a very nice, indoor bathroom! We had come from a very rural school where, although we did have bus service, two grades were housed in each old, one-room school house that had been pulled to the site from throughout the township for a consolidated school called Oswego. Each teacher was responsible for two grades in each building. For lunch each day, we only had cold sandwiches. For us, that meant two pieces of bread spread with Mom’s homemade grape jelly. So you can imagine what having a hot school lunch meant to us.
The teachers at Herscher encouraged us to complete projects related to our readings (our favorite was a multiple page marketing booklet to invite families to our Colorado dude ranch) and to collect, label, and make books of wild flowers, insects, leaves, and rocks. We learned and recited poems like Eugene Fields’ “Three Men in a Tub” and “If” by Rupert Kipling. We picked up a handful of dirt at recess and learned it was part of the Mississippi River Basin. We made friends and giggled for what seemed like the first time.
Some Sunday afternoons, we visited Aunt Grace in Cullom and loved to watch the “Sealtest Circus” on her television set. We asked Dad if might get a television. We were just starting over financially and money was at a premium. But that fall, there was a lot of ear corn left in the fields after the harvest. It could be picked up, put on a wagon, and sold at the local elevator. A deal was struck amongst us kids with Dad. I would drive the old Massey Harris tractor and pull a grain wagon. (Dad had brought the old Massey from the river farm.) The three younger kids would pick up the field corn left in the field and throw it into the wagon. All of us kids bundled up on three cold Saturdays in November and picked up the ears of corn left in the field. As part of our bargain, when we had filled the wagon, Dad would decide whether we had collected corn to purchase a television. It turned out there was enough money and Dad kept his promise as he always would. In early December, Dad and Mom brought home a new cabinet black and white television set that took up a lot of room in our living room. Entering the front room after getting off the bus, we saw it! “Pinky Lee” was on and then “Howdy Dowdy”, brought in by the “rabbit ears” setting atop the cabinet. A few weeks later Dad put together a huge outdoor antenna and set it in the ground beside our house to get better reception. From this experience we learned trust and the necessity of a work ethic to meet our family goals and to get something we wanted. In retrospect, I doubt very much whether that wagon full of corn entirely paid for the TV, but it taught us valuable lessons.
There was no discrimination against females in farming in the 1950’s. If you could reach the pedals, you could drive a tractor, either as a boy or girl. As a farm kid you were expected to help out on the farm with the animals and the garden, whether you liked it or not.
Barb reminded me of the afternoon on the Donley Place which is how the farm outside Herscher was known to us as, when she was only ten years old. Her job was to drive the old Massie Harris tractor. The tractor had a dangerous design. The two front wheels were close together and located under the front of the engine. Two back tires were large and set high under a small fender on the sides of the seat when Barb drove the tractor over a curved ditch on the farm. Barb had driven a tractor at the river since she was six, but this day, the ditch won. I saw the tractor begin to lean over and was scared to death! Petite, but muscular, Barb kept her hands on the wheel and did not leave her seat. The tractor was not damaged and was up-righted. Soon afterward Dad purchased an Allis Chambers tractor with evenly spaced four wheels, safer for all.
Dad found us a spot at the local 4-H club, the Milks Grove Farmerettes. We met neighbor girls and worked side-by-side with our 4-H leaders to learn how to make simple meals and how to sew an elastic band skirt and fringed scarf. We learned to give speeches and demonstrations and take on responsibilities as officers in the club.He loved his ten Guernsey dairy cows which we needed for milk. We consumed the milk and used it to make butter and then sold what we didn’t use to a dairy hauler. But, he dreamed of having a herd of registered, beef cattle and he devised a plan in his head to achieve that goal.
At that point in time, there were separate 4-H clubs for boys and girls, but girls could join one or both. I don’t remember any boys being in the girls’ club. Dad purchased $200 young, registered Hereford heifers for us. Dad was thrifty and knew how to “drive a good deal.” These first 2 Herefords fit his budget and fit his ultimate goal of owning a registered beef herd.
We joined the Milks Grove Farmers club and took on took additional leadership responsibility and exhibited our heifers at the Iroquois County 4-H Fair in July. But we also had to get our brownies made, vegetables canned, clothing projects completed, and posters made for our Brownie camera photo display before we could load our calves in Dad’s old cattle truck for the fair in Milford, an hours drive away. We were able to dress in pants at the fair, for this was a working experience. We hung out with the guys at the fair and ate free pickles and drank water at the church food stand. There was no money for us to eat at the food stands in the early days, nor to take a cooling spin on the carnival rides.
Before showing our cattle, we had to bathe them. We used Wisk for that. Wisk was a liquid detergent that was launched in 1956. We didn’t use it for the family laundry because it was too expensive. But Dad bought it and we used it on our beautiful red and white Hereford calves because he thought it made the white on the cows’ manes and spots extra white. After scrubbing the heifers up well, we rinsed them down with a hose, curry-combed their hair into pretty waves, and teased up the ends of their tails before taking them into the show ring before the critical, sharp eyed judges.
We showed our gentle, tuned down horned cows, Mickey and Cally, for the judges who evaluated them on their build and for our showmanship with the animals. We worked with our calves weeks prior to the fair leading them in donated Purina Halters and squaring their legs with a specially designed stick while holding their heads just high enough to show off their best qualities. Dad taught us to follow the judge’s eyes and to make sure that we looked at him and so did our cattle. We talked quietly to the cows to calm them and to get them to lead in a circle with seamless motion, without any jerking actions. We used the stick not only to square off the calf’s legs just right, but to rub their bellies while the judge was looking. Dad taught us how to humbly receive blue and a few purple rosette ribbons for our animals and for showmanship. We generally got A’s on our home economics projects too.
During that time we met a wonderful lady who had just moved to our neighborhood. Daphane had a crippled left arm caused by a recent case of polio. She maneuvered her left hand easily with her right hand. Daphane took us under her wing and taught us how to sew beautiful dresses with difficult patterns and techniques for our 4-H projects. We loved patient and creative Daphane as she created the tradition of Christmas fudge-making night’s tradition, taught us to use our home grown eggs for the best chiffon cakes, and how to use our home grown hamburger and catsup for the sloppy joe recipe that we use to this day. On a side note which shows how close all our lives are connected, Daphane’s husband, Felix, used to date our Mom in southern IL White County before she met our Dad. Felix also worked at General Foods when Barb worked there for a short time in the early 60’s and he worked with Barb’s future mother-in-law, Grandma Cuz, for many years. They became friends as well. It is a small world.
Mom and Dad were both entrepreneurs in their day. Dad, of course, farmed his 160 acres but also rented another 120 acre plot across the road from the Donley Place where he planted oats, corn, and soybeans. Dad was known in the area as a good farmer, knowing when to plant, cultivate, and reap. Five farmers in the immediate area of the section owned large pieces of farm equipment together, not new equipment but used equipment. The largest was the huge threshing machine they brought to our back forty of oats. When Mom and we four kids brought lunch to the threshers, we saw the dusty chaff from the oats thrown out the rear of that huge, roaring machine. The men took a short break and ate the roast beef dinner with homemade pie that we set out on the straw wagon.
Our neighbors, Jimmy Bowers; Kenny Walsh; Clyde Carmain; Mike Kroll; and Bill Stone worked together to bale hay, harvest corn and shell the corn. (Corn was not shelled in the field then as it is now. It was harvested on the cob and put in cribs that way. Later, the corn was shelled by a special “shelling” machine and then hauled to the elevator to sell.)
The men always ate well at each house where they worked. A lunch was brought to the field at ten in the morning, a full meal was eaten at the dining table of the host family, and another lunch was taken to the field about three. Guess who worked with Mom to prepare all of this food? Barb and I. Mom made three or four kinds of pies each day and began the roast early. We kids made salads and sandwiches, set the dining table, and made the Kool Aid (in later years and before that ice water) and coffee. The only exception was that for Jimmy Bowers we made tea because he had to have it for his ulcers. What a production!
Did I mention that I was driving the car in the fields and on the back roads when I was 13? Lunches had to be taken to the men in the fields. Mom did not drive.
Mom was an entrepreneur too. She bought baby chicks and raised them to become hens which lay eggs in her hen house. She was picky in the way the eggs were gathered so as not to anger the hens. I did not like picking up eggs, so Barb and I cased the eggs for the “egg man” that came to the farm every week to purchase them. Mom wrote down every transaction for the ten or so years she collected funds for us kids. Her egg book is still part of our family legacy. The roosters on the other hand, when they reached the right size, were killed, feathers picked after being plunked into a cauldron of hot water, and cut up to be frozen or for meals like the one that we brought with us to the farm in the summer of 1951. Of course, we were expected to help with that operation. Barb has a hard time eating chicken to this day because it brings to her mind that awful smell of hot feathers.
You see that Mom used that money for our hot lunches, our class rings, our yearbooks, our school clothes, and any special dresses we needed for church or school dances and graduation. Barb and I wore one of those special dresses on a 4-H trip to dine at Chicago’s Marshall Fields’ Walnut Room and to tour the Cracker Jack Factory.
When I joined the Methodist Church, Mom took me to Pontiac to J.C. Penney’s for a new dress. I wore that dress for my eighth grade graduation when three of my classmates and shy me were asked to compose and read the “Eighth Grade Will and Prophecy”. We wrote the Will and Prophecy on our own during the Saturdays in May. (Barb was also chosen by Mrs. Dickman, our eighth grade teacher and principal to write and read the “Eighth Grade Will and Prophecy” at her graduation.) The summer after my 8th grade graduation, I went with our Methodist Church and the rest of the new confirmation class to the Chicago Pacific Garden Mission to see a live radio broadcast. The broadcast depicted how Skid Row residents were being rehabbed by the mission. I think the church was trying to show us that drinking could lead to a life of ruination.
Mom rarely used her money to buy anything for herself. There was no money in the family budget for these special trips and dresses, rings, etc. from the cash crops Dad raised. It was Mom who provided them for us kids by the chickens that she raised. And we appreciated and loved her for all that she did to make our dreams come true.
This farm, five miles from any town, was a wonderful spot for our family. We rode our bikes, waxed down a fallen metal roof with waxed paper and slid hours on it, played kick the can in the evening with cousins, watched Dad “dowse” for water with a young sapling, cut delicious asparagus from an old, overrun cemetery up the road a bit, climbed fruit trees in our own orchard, played in the small creek on hot days, milked cows with and without a machine, and started our 4-H adventure. We learned to be a kid as well as a young adult on this working farm of the 50’s in Central Illinois.
I truly believe that our family had more opportunities available at this new place than if we had stayed on the scary, river farm in Livingston County. That sunny day, sitting on a worn comforter in the oat stubble, eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes led to our Dad’s decision that the Donley Place was where we should make our home. The house and buildings of that farm are long gone, but Rich, Barb’s husband, went back one time and picked up some rocks from the area where the house has stood and she has them in her flower garden as a remembrance of the good times we shared there.

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She Likes the Beatles

Shannon and I went to go see William Clark Green in McKinney the other night, must say I was impressed. He’s the next big thing in Red Dirt Country and puts on a hell of a show.

She burns through money like I burn through smokes
But she says that I need to quit
Cause if I die from cancer in 25 years
She’ll have to pay off the debt
No she don’t think I’m funny she don’t laugh at my jokes
I could care less about all her shoes
My parents both hate her but it evens out
Cause her parents both hate me too

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Waiting on a statement from Bibi Netanyahu

Egypt on Tuesday urged U.S. authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri – echoing language Washington used to caution Egypt as it cracked down on Islamist protesters last year.

It is unusual for Egypt to criticize such a major donor, and it was not immediately clear why the government would have taken such a step.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/egypt-urges-us-restraint-over-missouri-unrest-2014-8#ixzz3ArjDBnuE

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America’s In a Bad Mood

KISD should take note before pushing this huge new bond program, their chance of success is beyond their control to spin the message. The electorate is in a very bad mood.

Polls from major networks, researchers and newspapers agree: America’s in a bad mood.

In just one week, polls found politicians of all stripes are hitting approval numbers with record lows. The president finds himself roughly as popular as a trip to the dentist. The entire Democratic Party gets the thumbs down. Oh, and so does the Republican Party.

But it doesn’t stop there. Americans are also bummed out about the future in general, especially the economy. Things are so low that even an old favorite, sugar, polled poorly.

Pollsters say it all adds up to a country that feels “everything is terrible,” as one put it, a mood that campaigns should consider as they head into the midterm homestretch, when turnout should be all about enthusiasm — not pessimism.

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