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Opinion

  • At the suggestion of Gale Red, I sat down one day and worked my way through the 1870 Federal Census of Fayette County, searching for men who may have been soldiers of the Confederacy.

    Gale, a member of the Dixon Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, is heading up the effort in Illinois to compile a list of all known Confederate veterans buried in the state.

    The results surprised me a little, because as I scanned the entries and identified families from Virginia, Tennessee, etc., all of the Confederate veterans known to us showed up in this census.

  • It’s time for the city of Vandalia to seriously look at discontinuing its relationship with the group that says it wants to build a $300-million sports and entertainment complex in Vandalia.

    Why do we feel that way, in light of all of the jobs and money that the Motown project could bring into our community? The bad check the city received for the traffic study, of course, is one reason; but it is not the only reason.

  • Emmett Kelly, who became famous worldwide as "Weary Willie," the sad-faced clown, had his beginnings in a small Kansas town. But there is a local connection, too.

    Born in Sedan, Kan., on Dec. 9, 1898, Emmett was called “Tater” in his youth, alluding to his Irish heritage. His father, for whom he was named, was a section foreman for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, and owned the house in which Emmett Jr. saw the first light of day.

  • In frigid temperatures like we’ve been experiencing lately, most people stay out of the weather unless they’re required to work in it. But then, those who steal from others are not like most people.

    Vandalia Police Chief Larry Eason announced on Monday that his department is working to solve a number of recent burglaries, both in town and at Vandalia Lake.

  • The Vandalia City Council has long been searching for a solution to the city’s inoperable raw water intake on the Kaskaskia River. On Monday night, it heard of a possible solution.

    Yet, there is still some varying opinions on how to deal with the situation.

    Gonzalez Companies projects that it will cost about $400,000 to get the intake working properly.

  • In my last column, I shared several stories of Christmas "spreeing" that went on in the early days, as told by old-timers of Fayette County.

    The Rev. Presley Garner Donaldson’s story, “A Christmas Spree,” was among them, and his talk of sky-blue lizards and red-hot reptiles made me chuckle. This story was taken from Presley’s 1908 book, “Life and Adventures of P.G. Donaldson,” in which he tells tales of his life and childhood "in plain home talk."

  • As we close the door on 2009 and prepare to launch into 2010, it’s an appropriate time to take stock of what has happened in the past 12 months, and to look ahead to what the new year may hold.

    For most of us, bidding goodbye to 2009 is a welcome relief. It’s been a tough year on several fronts. Yet, many of the year's clouds were not without silver linings. Better times lie ahead.

    Following is a summary of the highlights.

    The Economy

  • Christmases past were celebrated in a somewhat different way than today.

    It appears that "spreeing" was a common denominator in the tales told by the early settlers of the county. For "spreeing," insert the word "whiskey."

    This time next year, a new book, “Christmas Anthology of Illinois,” by James Ballowe of Ottawa will be in the bookstores. Included in this work are stories from around the state, Fayette County included, of how the holiday was celebrated in years past.

  • Last Thursday my son, Ethan, and I put up our Christmas tree. It was fairly simple – fit tab A into slot B and so forth. I’ve never had an artificial tree before, so this was a new experience.

    After the metal pieces had been slotted, we stood back and Ethan said, "Mom that doesn’t look like the box." I assured him that the metal branches extending from the metal trunk could be covered with cuttings from our cedar tree outside – not to worry.

    I was worried. It looked like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

  • The decorations are up, the cards are sent, the carols are being played, the holiday goodies have been baked and – unless you’re a world-class procrastinator – the gifts have been purchased.

    It’s nearly Christmas time!

    As we approach Christmas Day this Friday, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the many things for which we are thankful. Family, friends and health come to mind easily.

  • Grandma (Berniece Meyer Davidson Spires) first met Eddie Spires in 1928, when she was 16 years old. Eddie had accompanied his buddy, Ed McNutt, to Bingham to visit Ed’s girl, Lenore Harrison, who lived there. Ed and Lenore later married.

    Both men lived east of Ramsey – Eddie Spires in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. For Eddie, it was love at first sight, although Berniece did not know this. Distance and lack of transportation kept them from meeting again – until after World War II.

  • Perhaps more than any other time of the year, the Christmas holiday season brings out the generous spirit of the people of Fayette County.

    Though we’ve come to expect acts of selfless generosity from area residents, this year has produced more than normal, it seems.

    Everywhere one turns, another group has taken on another project to help those less fortunate, to support someone through an illness or to brighten the Christmas season for the needy. It is, indeed, a heartwarming thing to witness.

    A sampling:

  • As the first blast of winter hit this week, the memories of past winters – when we had mounds of snow – came to mind. This year, according to the persimmon seed, with its telltale spoon, we should expect to have our snow shovels at the ready.

    The winter of "eighteen hundred and starve-to-death" in 1831, was not the first big freeze experienced in Illinois. An earlier freeze, about 1813, was known as the "year without a summer."

  • It was an impressive array of vendors and contractors that was assembled by Motown Technology for Monday’s meeting with the Vandalia City Council. Participants included representatives of Wyndham Hotel Group, IBM, Select Contracts, Hunt Construction Group, TSI Global and several other design and construction companies.

    One by one, at the invitation of developer Kenneth Bardwell, those representatives told of their expertise and the part they would play in the creation of a proposed $300 million sports and entertainment complex in Vandalia.

  • Vandalia’s city administrator last Tuesday night rolled out a number of budget cuts that he was proposing in light of shrinking surpluses and decreasing revenues.

    With that in mind, we hope that the city council takes a long, hard look at the request for an extension being requested for the proposed $300-million sports and entertainment complex.

  • “As a small child, I remember looking up at her and thinking that she was as tall as a tree, especially since she wore long dresses.”

    This comment by her great-granddaughter, Joyce Hamilton, added to the aura of Mary Wren Sharp, who chose to be with her husband during the Civil War, and joined the Seventh Illinois Cavalry as a nurse.

  • Gary Dycus, from New York City, an occasional Leader-Union reader, e-mailed me recently about a story in his family where his grandmother (Susan Jane Nodine Fair) sold a pig in order to buy her daughter, Lena, material for a silk dress to wear to a special Wren Bridge fish fry. The dress was green and Lena had gorgeous red hair.

    Gary wanted to know who organized this social occasion, how long it ran, how it was advertised, what the people did, what the entertainment was and whether pictures survive.

  • With the economic conditions that we’ve endured in recent months, getting in a Thanksgiving mood may take a little work this year.

    But it shouldn’t.

    In an ideal world, gratitude should be our natural response to the many things we DO have – regardless of our circumstances and the things we DON’T have. Granted, that’s not an easy position to take. Yet, it’s a good approach that produces an attitude of gratitude.

    Here in Vandalia, we have many things for which we should be thankful:

  • As ceremonial shovels were thrust into the ground last Tuesday, a new era was launched for the Family YMCA of Fayette County. And for the city of Vandalia.

    The groundbreaking ceremony, which attracted more than 50 community residents, was the culmination of more than 15 years of efforts to build a community recreation center in Vandalia.

  • A dismissal that had its beginnings in a case involving tall grass may eventually land the city of St. Elmo in deep weeds.

    For 16 years – under five mayors – Ken Thomason has served as St. Elmo’s chief of police. From what is known, his personnel file contains no reprimands, no indications of performance problems.

    Then, two weeks ago – after a flap over the enforcement of the city’s weed ordinance – Mayor Larry Tish presented Thomason with a letter saying that he was being terminated.