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Opinion

  • This past Thursday afternoon, a nice crowd gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Vandalia’s new National Road Interpretive Center downtown.

    John Goldsmith, president of the organization, along with Jerry Swarm and Mayor Rick Gottman, each gave a brief speech. Jerry received special thanks for the long hours he spent working on the center, and he spoke volumes when he said, “I had a lot of help.”

    This is what the National Road Association of Illinois has exemplified since its inception in 1997. People working together for a common interest.

  • He’s long been referred to as the most respected and beloved president in our nation’s history.

    And now, as we pause to observe the 200th anniversary of his birth, Abraham Lincoln is once again front and center. Across the nation – but particularly here in Illinois – we’re celebrating the life and character of this remarkable man.

  • This Thursday evening, beginning at 6 p.m., we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln in grand style at the old state capitol in Vandalia.

    Although Lincoln belongs to the nation and to the world beyond, there was a time when Abraham Lincoln’s world was Vandalia.

    The newly elected legislator arrived in Vandalia by stage on a blustery November day, squeezed in with the other five members of the Sangamon County delegation, including his mentor, John T. Stuart.

  • Last week, as our community prepared to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce presented two awards named after our 16th president.

    Those Abe Awards, presented annually by the chamber, honor those who have made significant contributions to our community. This marks the 35th year that the awards have been given.

  • There was quite a bit of irony in one of the last speeches given in the Illinois Senate chambers by state Sen. Frank Watson.

    As he addressed the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Greenville senator asked, supposedly in a rhetorical tone, who had been there to stop Blagojevich from going against the wishes of the Illinois General Assembly and the residents of the state.

    He answered his own question, saying, “No one.”

  • The Western Union telegram came late in the day of July 11, 1945, to Mr. and Mrs. O.E. Garner of Rural Route 1, Vandalia.

    Dispatched by the Commanding Officer at Naval Air Station, Banana River, Fla., the standard tersely written telegram read: "Regret to inform you that your son Thomas Arthur Garner AMM3C missing since about 0215 July 10, 1945, while on a routine training flight search being conducted will keep you promptly advised.”

  • When the Vandalia School Board last February voted to close the Vandalia Community High School campus, it was with the hope that keeping students on school property during the lunch period would enhance the overall learning atmosphere.

    But they couldn’t have imagined that the results would be so dramatic.

  • In last week’s column, we were introduced to Dr. James A. Black, born near Salem, and the keeper of a diary during his three years with Company D of the 49th Illinois Infantry.

    It wasn’t so much the good doctor who caused my interest in Company D, it was the fact that author Benita Moore of Galesburg informed me that 20 men from Vandalia were assigned to this company.

  • A day before our nation celebrated the outcome of last November’s election, some local residents began looking toward the next election.

    Monday was the first day for filing nominating petitions for the April 7 election. At that election, a number of municipal and school board seats will be filled.

  • After nearly a decade of planning and several rounds of seeking bids, it appears that Vandalia's downtown enhancement project is finally going to be launched this spring.

    A bid opening last Friday produced a contractor whose price tag for the project is within 10 percent of the engineer's estimates. And that contractor has been involved in a similar – though much larger – enhancement project in downtown Belleville. It sounds like a good fit.

  • James A. Black was born July 2, 1835, eight miles east of Salem, the son of Willis and Emilla Hensley Black.

    After finishing his schooling, he taught school for a while in Marion County, and began to study medicine. In 1860, now Dr. James A. Black, he established a medical practice at Keensville in Wayne County.

  • You almost have to wonder whether Gov. Rod Blagojevich is clicking his heels when he speaks publicly.

    Remember Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”? Clicking her heels three times, Dorothy chanted, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

    That’s been a Blagojevich theme.

    In Vandalia for the first time, in 2002, Blagojevich said, “I want to bring jobs to Illinois. I want to bring jobs to Illinois. I want to bring jobs to Illinois.”

  • In my collection of "old" things are several ration books from the 1940s. The small books fit into a 5-inch-by-7-inch brown envelope, and contain pages of stamps with pictures of howitzers, aircraft carriers, tanks and airplanes.

    Some of the stamps have numbers on a colored background, while other stamps in the book are imprinted with letters and numbers.

  • For a little more than two years, a dozen residents of the Brownstown and St. Elmo school districts have studied how a consolidation of the two districts would improve the educational offerings for their children. Now, they are anxious to share their findings with their fellow residents.

    At a meeting on Tuesday night, the consolidation Committee of 10 hashed out at length just how they can best relay their findings to residents of the two districts.

  • “In 1861, there was not a house where Vera is now – nothing but a switch – and it was called Canaan.” So read the recollections of Marcella B. Doyle, published in The Vandalia Union in 1913 to commemorate its first 50 years of publication.

    Mrs. Doyle was one of Fayette County’s many old settlers who responded to the editor’s request for stories about what Fayette County was like "back in the day," as the younger generation phrases it.

  • As we prepare to close out 2008, we pause to remember the good, the bad and the ugly of the year just past ­– and to anticipate the year ahead.

    For a few, 2008 was a banner year. Others, however, can’t wait to tear off the last month of the calendar and put the year behind them. For most, it was a mixed bag.

    National Politics

  • In several of my past columns, I have relied on the experiences of my sister, Sandy, a retired-Navy wife, for stories about hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, earth tremors and such.

    Sandy has another experience that I have never shared – sending a son off to the military.

    Sandy was 18 when she married a career Navy man, Jim "Zeke" Sampson, formerly of the Jimpson neighborhood in Ramsey township.

  • It was a query from a Texas woman, Dara Gray Brown, which piqued my interest in the Nave and Pugh families of Ramsey Township.

    Dara was descended from Tennessee Teter and Sara Pugh Nave through their son, David Pugh Nave, and told me that her Nave family was a member of the Bird Clan of the Cherokee nation.

    Through her family research, Dara had identified the Nave, Pugh, Gray, Wesner and Lippert (Leopard) families of Fayette County as having Cherokee lineage.

  • It’s nearly Christmas time! We’ve come to the end of the most wonderful holiday season of the year – one anticipated by young and old alike.

    It’s a season that’s easy to love. Of course, there are the presents; we all enjoy giving and receiving things. There are the holiday traditions – the sights and sounds and smells we have filed away in our memories from Christmases past. And there are the many opportunities to gather with friends and family.

  • What a difference a week can make.

    It was a little more than a week ago that almost everyone had said that Rod Blagojevich was done as governor, that he should resign from office, after being arrested on federal corruption charges.

    Now, many are changing their tune, pointing out that Blagojevich is innocent until proven guilty, and that some of the allegations aren’t nearly as bad as they sounded just a week ago.

    Indeed, Blagojevich deserves his day in court.