If you remember Gerkin’s Ice Cream Parlor in downtown Vandalia, you may also remember a young Vandalia high school student who worked there as a soda jerk, Clarence Alender, better known as “Butch” in those days.
“Butch” would hurry (walking, no car) from the high school (now known as High School Apartments) and work during his 45-minute lunch break, then hurry back to school
But this was not his initial introduction to the work force. Clarence shares his story of working his way up the ladder, always mindful of walking in his faith and maintaining his integrity, thereby gaining the trust and respect of his peers…and of his family and friends.
The first steps
“I began delivering papers when I was 8 years old,” Alender said. “After I had delivered papers for awhile, the route supervisor told me they were giving me 50 percent of what I delivered, sold and collected. That was all right with me.
“Butch, the paper boy” was a nickname given to him by one of his customers, and the name stuck. “The nickname has been the name many of the people who knew me when I was younger still call me,” he said.
Butch took on another job working at the Shobonier Baptist Church, when he was about age 12. “I mowed the grass, built a fire in the furnace when needed and kept the church warm during the services.”
Alender earlier made his profession of faith and was saved. “I was saved when I was 10 years old,” he said.
“We had an evangelist come to Shobonier who had been raised as a young man in Shobonier. He went around town in his automobile with loud speakers, telling people about the revival. This revival lasted about three weeks.
“I was saved along with many others who went forward. The pulpit area was full of people.”
On to high school and yet another job. “During high school, I worked as a soda jerk at Gerkins Ice Cream Parlor. I had forty-five minutes to eat lunch, work, and walk to and from school.
“Lunch was free for me, (as I) worked during the lunch hour. I really liked, and I still do, hamburgers and French fries. I also worked evenings,” he said.
After graduating from high school, he went to work for First National Bank as a teller. Then he took a job with “Uncle Sam.”
“After two years at the bank, I enlisted in the Air Force for four years. I was stationed at Lackland Air Force base, for 3 1/2 years, then six months in San Antonio, Texas. “I was a personnel accountant,” he said.
Once, he was to ship overseas; they only needed one man. “So they flipped a coin to see whether I went or another man. You can say I won or lost, because the other man went,” he said.
After an honorable discharge, Alender returned to First National Bank in Vandalia, where he trained in all areas of the bank.
“I was later promoted to assistant cashier and worked with many wonderful people. Harry Rogier and Harold Hartwick were excellent teachers, and they helped me start my banking career.”
Alender graduated from the Graduate School of Banking, University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisc., in 1963. He also attended a Dale Carnegie Course in Decatur while employed at FNB.
Moving On and Up the Ladder…
In 1963, Alender accepted a position as vice president and cashier at the Benton Community Bank in Benton. He also continued growing spiritually and assisted in the organization of a new Southern Baptist Church, Immanuel Baptist Church, in Benton.
Working for the community, he also organized the Franklin County Shrine Patrol. Thirty Shriners purchased red 160CC motorcycles and performed in community parades in Southern Illinois.
He served as president of the Benton Lions Club and vice president of the Benton Chamber of Commerce.
In 1967, he was commissioned to serve as a member of the Board of Banks and Trust Companies for the state of Illinois.
And another change…
In 1968, Alender became president and one of the owners of Peoples State Bank in Gillispie. A small bank in the community, it grew very rapidly. Dispensing with unneeded security devices and remodeling the bank, Alender initiated the addition of services that were already available in most banks.
He was elected treasurer of the Macoupin-Montgomery Bankers and introduced activities, which increased interest and financial benefits to the organization. He later served as vice president and president of the group.
In May 1969, he was appointed a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council.
Keeping busy, but not neglecting his walk in faith and community works, he assisted in the organization of the Trinity Baptist Church, Gillespie and served as chairman of the church building fund; served two different times on the Illinois Baptist Association Board of Directors; and organized the Gilespie Kiwanis Club and served as its president.
Alender was ordained a deacon by the Trinity Baptist Church in 1972.
In 1974, he accepted a position as president of the Security Bank and Trust Co. in Mt. Vernon.
In 1975, the opportunity became available for Alender to purchase seven insurance agencies in Staunton, Gillespie, Litchfield and Jerseyville. After purchase, the seven agencies were consolidated into four agencies.
“I already was an insurance broker, appraiser and loan broker. I added these services to the Staunton office and the other three were independent insurance agencies.
In 1988, Alender sold the insurance agencies and tried to retire; it lasted only a year. “I became anxious to work again. I realized that (at) 56 years old, I was too young to retire.”
He then worked the 1990 Census in Macoupin, Sangamon and Mason counties, where, “I met some very interesting people.”
After the Census, he became an insurance inspector, attending two finance and insurance schools.
At one time, the Alenders owned a department store which his wife, Mary, managed. They also owned and operated an apartment building, were part-owners of six radio stations and owned and operated a ready-mix concrete business. Alender has also made radio commercials.
The Family Alender
Sometime, somehow during all those busy years, Alender made the most-important decision of his adult life, which paid off in immeasurable dividends and blessings.
“I married Mary Anderson,” he said.
A daughter, Dana Lynn, married John Baggio, and they had two girls, Natilie, who married Drew Wright; and Nicole, who married Chad Fuller. A son, David Robert, married Deborah Mayfield, and they have a son, Samuel.
I am very proud of my family,” he said.
At Last! Realizing a Dream
The Alenders moved back to Vandalia to help with their mothers, who were both in Fayette County Hospital Long Term Care. Back here, he realized a dream.
“I sold vehicles at Hosick Motors. I had a dream as a young man to sell cars,” Alender said.
“Actually, I wanted to own my own dealership. I have owned approximately 70 vehicles since I owned my first automobile, including a few collector automobiles,” he said.
He also sold travel trailers, etc., at Midstate Campers for eight years.
Health matters intervene…
Alender has received many awards, certificates, and letters of commendation and appreciation from many sources, including the Governor of Illinois.
There is no doubt he would still be busy on some worthy project or cause, but another shifting of gears became necessary when Alender suffered a stroke in 2006 and faced retirement in 2007.
“I have had several strokes and heart trouble since my first stroke,” he said. But the motor is still running.
“I presently have a home office, where I have many books and my computer, and I manage our investments,” he shared.
He admits he misses all the activities he used to enjoy; he liked to bowl, play golf and travel. He and Mary traveled to many places in the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico and several other foreign countries.
They attend First Baptist Church in Vandalia, where he has taught a boys Sunday School class and is a deacon. He has touched, and continues to touch, many lives through his works and leadership in four churches. He credits the deacons of the First Baptist for helping them when he suffered the strokes and Mary was ill with the shingles.
“I don’t know what we would have done without them,” he said.
The Alender family has faced problems, disappointments and even a very serious illness in one of their children – as well as his accomplishments and almost phenomenal career successes – but they have remained faithful and trusting in the Lord.
Reflecting over the years, Clarence “Butch’ Alender, past newspaper boy, church boy janitor and soda jerk, laughingly said, “It looks like I couldn’t hold a job, but usually I averaged six to eight years, and moved on only for the promotion” referring to the changes in his career.
But his walk in faith was always steady and secure, evident as he said, “The Lord has been with me many times and has seen me through many situations. I have learned during my lifetime that you must always be faithful to the Lord, which is more important than a career or anything else.”