By Jeff Smyth
Come sit near the fire with me, Virginia, and together we can discover the answer to your question, “Is there a Santa Claus?” That you, as a child, should ask is understandable, but you might be surprised to learn that many adults, including those from the capital of friendliest of little cities, Pinckneyville, have also grappled with it.
Our quest for the answer begins at the Perry County Courthouse lawn where the giant plywood Santa greets travelers driving north on Ill. 127. As benign as he may appear, Santa has been at the center of several controversies. Old timers recall that soon after it was erected in the early 1950s, someone from this basketball-crazed community made a wooden ball and nailed it to Santa’s raised mitt. This infuriated some people in the community who believed it was showing disrespect for old St. Nicholas. The ball came down.
Turn the calendar up 50 or so years, and a debate swirled again around the giant structure. This time it was the religious community who argued that Santa was nothing but an icon for crass commercialism. What should rightfully be a time to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ, they said, had become nothing more than over-the-top consumerism with Santa carrying that bag. Unless a Nativity scene could also be placed on the grounds, then Santa must go, they argued. The Nativity scene went up and the two have shared the grounds ever since.
There should be no debate that Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ. One can also make a case for over indulgence by Americans this time of year, but to throw Santa under the proverbial sleigh for this is misguided.
The gates to the Pinckneyville Zoo swing open Dec. 19 inside Thomas Gym in what is shaping up to be a raucous debut. The Zoo is the creation of the Blue Crew – a student led-pep club who has been mobilized to cheer on the Panthers when it faces cross-county rival Du Quoin Friday and other opponents throughout the season.
To help energize the group, First National Bank in Pinckneyville has become the official sponsor of the Crew and the Zoo which is located in the student section next to the Pep Band. FNB is giving away $25 Buffalo Wild Wings gift cards to the student who demonstrates the most school spirit during each home game. It is also providing Blue Crew tee-shirts to students, as well as “Big Heads” of Panther seniors and Coach Bob Waggoner.
By Jeff Smyth
A good way to describe Roger Morgenstern is that he is the “Dr. Frankenstein” of arborists. While not the “bu-wa-ha-ha-ha-ha” scary type like in the Mary Shelley novel, he can fuse limbs-to-limbs and limbs-to-trunks to create things that are not typically found in the natural world.
Morgenstern is a tree grafter and, while it was fascinating to listen to him passionately describe his talents for it; that was not my primary reason to visit him recently. I wanted to know what type of weather we were in for this winter and believe Morgenstern’s persimmon tree to be the defining indicator.
The St. Nicholas Brewing Company in Du Quoin opened its doors toAugust 9. Enjoy hand-tossed pizza, burgers and much more. Two beers from its vats are currently on tap with more to come. Overall, there is a wide selection of drafts to suit every taste. The atmosphere is the best with exposed brick from from this circa 1800s building that was once the St. Nicholas Hotel east of the railroad tracks and south of the main drag. The tables are recycled bowling lanes from Du Quoin's Ten Pin Alley. Enjoy
Muddy grounds and gray skies kept few away from the 79th annual Swanwick Picnic. People packed the pavilion for fried chicken, potato salad, green beans, tomatoes & cucumbers, plus a wide selection of homemade pies (even gooseberry!) and cakes. Jerry Fromme was in charge of frying at least 985 pounds of bird. He was helped by his wife, Judy. This is their 43 year on the job. Greg Hale called quilt bingo while people noshed and lingered. (click on the image to view the gallery)
By Jeff Smyth
I spent a few days on business in Houston recently and, of course, I heard a lot about Texas pride. Anything Texas is irreproachable among Lone Star residents. They wear the state flag on their clothing as a designer statement, they incorporate it in their business logos and they hang it from their balconies. They write songs romanticizing the Texas spirit. Even their bumper stickers, "Don't Mess with Texas" carry swagger. Of course, while most of the rest of nation continues to suffer an economic malaise, Texas has boot-scooted to nearly full employment. By those measures alone, one can understand why they are a proud people.
I experienced similar state pride when I lived in Arizona but for different reasons; we were in a natural wonderland with the grandest of canyons, towering Ponderosa pines and weather that just compelled you to be active. We knew we were in a special placed that deserved our reverence.
I haven’t, however, ever felt an inkling of pride in my native state, Illinois. Instead, with a corrupt government, suppressing taxation and a major city in which people are being shot at war zone rates, being from Illinois is nothing to crow about.
Be as honest as Abe, as a fellow Illinoisan, do you ever find yourself bragging about hailing from the Prairie State? I thought not. Sure, regional and local pride abound. Southern Illinois is such a contrast from the remainder of the Land of Lincoln that many of us wish for it to become its own state. As often as this notion crops up (and it has from time-to-time for more than 100 years) it’s not likely to happen. We are too poor a region that’s in the grip of a Chicago political machine that looks at us not as one of them, but as a branch of the family no one invites to reunions. For that matter, people in Cook County couldn’t even tell you where southern Illinois begins. Is it south of Kankakee, Springfield, Salem, or all of the above?
As much as there is contrast between Texas’s pride and Illinois’s lack of it, the same is true in each state’s governors. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made frequent trips to Illinois in attempt to poach businesses. He presents a compelling argument. Taxes are low (there is no state income tax), $8 billion in surplus brims from state coffers (Illinois is grappling with a more than $6 billion deficit), there is growth in wages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, increased 3.3 percent the first six months of 2014 (Illinois’s a mere 0.03 percent) and unemployment is low at 5.1 percent (7.1 percent here).
What is Gov. Pat Quinn’s response aside from some snarky lines in an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune regarding Perry’s Illinois forays as being a boost to Illinois tourism? Nothing tangible other than he wants to renege on his promise to repeal the 47 percent “temporary” income tax increase he begged for three years ago and make it permanent. Money, by the way, that was support to pay down debits and replenish pension funds only to be squandered by bloating government.
Perry doesn’t need to steal Illinois businesses. I’m sure he just likes to come up here and tweak Quinn’s nose. As Illinoisans, we don’t defend our governor because we understand we have little to throw back at Perry.
Governors of neighboring states are having the same fun. Unemployment in Wisconsin is 5.7 percent; Iowa, 4.4 percent and Indiana, 5.9 percent. They are also sneaking across our borders to steal our businesses with some degree of success. How can there be such a difference among neighboring states: less government and no Chicago political machine.
I’ve painted a grim picture of Illinois but some of you might be “glass half full” people. To you I ask, tell what I am missing; what should we be proud of? I want sip from your glass.