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Opinion

  • This is the time of year for proms, and many local high schools have either held theirs already or will be holding them soon. At Vandalia Community High School, the prom is this Saturday from 7-11:30 p.m.

    It’s a wonderful time of making memories, socializing with friends and enjoying a dress-up date. If you’d like a glimpse into the evening’s activities, the coronation of the prom king and queen will take place at 8 p.m. in the gymnasium. This year’s theme is “A Night of Enchantment.”

  • This week, they brought in the big equipment.

    And as the first buckets of earth were moved, the downtown enhancement project in Vandalia is officially under way.

    The first phase will be to install new storm sewer lines. Those will take runoff water out of the sanitary sewer system, which should significantly reduce the load on our sewage treatment plant. Plus, by moving the storm water out of the area more efficiently, the incidents of basement flooding will be significantly reduced in the downtown area.

  • In recent conversations with Betty Schaub, I learned that she has a very interesting corollary in her family.

    Betty’s fourth great-grandfather, Hezekiah Alexander, was a framer of the North Carolina State Constitution and Bill of Rights, and her cousin, another of Hezekiah’s descendants, Ray Garrison, helped draft the Illinois Constitution in 1965.

    Hezekiah’s story is told in the book, “Hezekiah Alexander and the Revolution in the Backcountry,” by Norris W. Preyer, and I have drawn from this reference to tell his story.

  • A state office that is ostensibly designed to help people who are down on their luck or have specials needs will become inaccessible to many of those people if a recently announced plan is enacted.

    Late last month, the Illinois Department of Human Services announced its plans to close 17 of its rural offices – including the one in Vandalia that serves Fayette County residents – as a cost-savings move. State officials said that Fayette County residents would be served out of an office in Centralia if the proposal goes into effect on July 16 as planned.

  • This past week, the music emitting from my "antique" cassette player has been old country from a March 13, 1989, “Okaw Valley Opry” show.

    Joining Bill and Evelyn Oliver on stage were daughter Connie Lee, vocals; Mike Eulberg, bass and vocals; Rick Stanbery, drums; Buddy Olsteen, banjo, steel guitar and vocals; and Dale Torbeck, fiddle and general cuttin’ up.

    Listening to the show, I feel as though I am a member of the audience. I laugh at Dale’s jokes and applaud the musicians along with the live audience. What fun!

  • Though there weren’t many contested or controversial races in Tuesday’s election, there were enough to spark significant interest in certain parts of the county.

    For instance, several mayoral races were hotly contested – including contests that resulted in new mayors in St. Elmo and Brownstown and a new village president in St. Peter. In Vandalia, two-term incumbent mayor Rick Gottman fended off efforts by two challengers to secure his third term.

  • Little did I know when my Feb. 5 story about a Vandalia connection to the mysterious Bermuda Triangle was published in this newspaper that a copy of the article would make it to a family member, Don Garner.

    You may recall from that article that Aviation Machinist Mate (AMM3) Thomas Garner was lost with 11 crew members aboard a PBM Mariner flying boat on July 10, 1945, while on a routine training mission. It was last sighted over New Providence Islands, going north, apparently headed into a rain squall.

  • You’ve read the ads. You’ve heard the rhetoric. You’ve formed your opinions.

    Now, it’s time to prepare to vote.

  • Since I’ve put Dale Reeves, a local Civil War aficionado, in the spotlight with the photo of Civil War soldier, Pvt. John Strobel, I think I’ll leave him there a little longer.

    On the same day Dale shared the Strobel photograph with me, he gave me a photo of a man by the name of Jarrett, who had enlisted on Aug. 5, 1861, at Kinmundy, Marion County. Dale said that this man was not a Fayette County soldier.

  • As the city begins the process of spending millions of dollars to repair streets, upgrade utilities and beautify the appearance of downtown Vandalia, it’s also time to consider carefully the city’s policies governing parking in the central business district.

    Currently, the city limits parking to two hours – day and night – on Gallatin Street. Several side streets off of Gallatin Street have two-hour parking between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., with no restrictions on overnight parking.

  • From time to time, my friend, Dale Reeves, a Civil War aficionado, stops by to visit and share history.

    Not long ago, I handed him a photograph of Vandalia’s Civil War hero, Col. Lucien Greathouse, in full military dress, one that has been published in this newspaper on several occasions.

  • After I reached my early 20s and opted for contact lenses, I realized that not only had I inherited by father’s big toe, I also had his eyes.

    The reason I hadn’t noticed before was because my eyes had been hidden behind thick black-framed glasses since the sixth grade. In those days, almost all light-haired and fair-skinned kids were fitted with those black frames. One style for girls came with tiny rhinestones in the corner.

  • If ever there was a year to observe Sunshine Week in Illinois, this is it.

    The week, which runs March 15-21, is set aside each year to raise awareness about the importance of openness in government.

  • After years of discussion and planning, construction has finally gotten under way on the downtown enhancement project in Vandalia.

    This first phase will involve work to shore up the infrastructure in the in downtown area – specifically, the sewer lines. One benefit of the project will be that sanitary sewer and storm sewer lines will be split – so all rain runoff won’t have to go through the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

  • In 1994, Vandalia celebrated her 175th anniversary with a year-long celebration.

    One of the events was a dinner held at the First Baptist Church to honor first families, cities whose charters were granted while Vandalia was the capital (1819-1839), oldest living person in the county and Vandalia’s premier businesses.

    Clarence Lockart was recognized at that time, not only for being the oldest businessman in Vandalia, but also for having been in business more years than any of Vandalia’s other merchants.

  • There’s a fresh breeze blowing in Springfield.

    After the embarrassing events surrounding the arrest and impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on alleged ethics violations, people are actually talking about the need for more openness in government and for shoring up the ethical standards we expect from our elected representatives.

  • In my previous column, I mentioned that Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s neighbor, Julia Remann Sprigg, was reared in Vandalia. The Lincolns lived across Eighth Street from the Sprigg household.

    Julia, a widow, had boys, too, and Willie and Tad Lincoln were frequent guests in the home with the Sprigg back yard one of the children’s familiar haunts.

    Julia’s brother, Henry Remann, lived a block from his sister, so members of his family, too, were Lincoln neighbors. Both Henry and Julia left Vandalia after the capital was moved to Springfield.

  • After an absence of several years, the Vandalia area this weekend will see the return of a home show.

    This time, the Home & Lifestyle Expo will be sponsored by the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with The Leader-Union and radio stations WKRV/WPMB.

    The event, which features booths by 30 area businesses, will bring a variety of products and services to one convenient location from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday. Those booths will be set up in the gymnasium and cafeteria of the Vandalia Junior High School.

  • After nearly three decades of being represented in Springfield by former state Sen. Frank Watson, it's difficult to imagine someone else in that position.

    But with Watson's decision to retire after suffering a stroke last fall, we must shift gears.

    This week's selection of Kyle McCarter, a Lebanon business owner, to fill the seat as state senator in the 51st District appears to be a good one.

  • The 300-plus guests for Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday at the capitol last Thursday evening were treated to a wonderful spectacle and a downright good time.

    The capitol building, built in 1836, was bathed in the soft glow of accent lights around the building’s foundation, complemented by the period streetlights surrounding the Public Square.

    The chandeliers sparkled through the windows of the two-story building, adding to the beauty of the historic structure and enhancing the feeling of expectancy that my son, Ethan, and I were already feeling.