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October 9 2014
A COUPLE WEEKS ago I watched a fine football game—Georgia and Tennessee. Both teams appeared talented and well-coached. Then I watched Northwestern and Penn State. It was like watching amateurs. After that I saw Minnesota and Michigan which was not any better.
My mind drifted back to the 1940 Minnesota-Michigan game for the Little Brown Jug. I didn’t see it and there was no TV, but the late Walt Friedhoff saw it and told me about it.
The game had five All-American backs. Michigan’s Tom Harmon, Forest Evashevski, and Bob Westfall. For Minnesota, Sonny Franck and Bruce Smith.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers were coached by Bernie Bierman who played football and basketball there. He coached several places before returning to Minnesota where he won five national championships and seven Big Ten crowns in eight years. After Knut Rockne’s death he was college football’s premier coach.
Michigan’s Fritz Crisler was born in Illinois and played high school football in Mendota. He played for Amos Alonzo Stagg at the University of Chicago and stayed on as assistant before moving.
He had two undefeated teams at Princeton before Michigan called. Crisler came in 1938 bringing his striped helmets. The stripes were not because Princeton’s totem was Tigers but because these helmets helped passers find receivers.
For Michigan’s Wolverines helmets became blue and yellow (maize). I once buried a wolverine with dark blue fur and yellow stripes around its tail just like Michigan helmets.
Back to 1940. Michigan came into Minnesota ranked number one. Minnesota was number two. Whoever won would not only be Big Ten champions but also national champions. Minnesota won 7 to 6, but Harmon won the Heisman Trophy. Bruce Smith would get that in 1941 when Minnesota repeated as Big Ten and national champions.
During World War Two the Navy established V-12 programs at universities to train officers. In 1943 Michigan procured All-Americans fullback Bill Daley from Minnesota and half back Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch from Wisconsin to keep the Wolverines strong during wartime.
How Crisler recruited Daley and Hirsch away from Minnesota and Wisconsin who also had V-12 units, I don’t know. Crisler found Pete Elliott hiding at the Park College V-12, and Pete became Michigan’s starting tail back in 1945.
World War Two put an end to Minnesota’s dominance. Bierman enlisted to coach the Iowa Naval aviation team. In Michigan, Crisler began plotting for post-war. Many veterans would be returning so he devised a two platoon system to take advantage of the surplus.
Then Pete’s brother Bump who played for Purdue’s V-12 unit during the war enrolled at Michigan, and Bob Chappius returned from the war. In 1946 Crisler unveiled the two platoon system. However, fullback Jack Weisenberger and halfback Bump played both ways.
In 1947 Michigan was undefeated and declared unofficial national champions. Chappius and Bump Elliot were unanimous All-Americans.
Bierman’s legacy is probably greater than Crisler’s. His quarterback on three national championship teams at Minnesota was Bud Wilkinson who won three national champions as Oklahoma’s legendary coach. A quarterback under him was Darrell Royal who coached Texas and naturally won three national championships. The source of the victories is in the inheritance.
October 9 2014
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They Call Me Spence
by Brad Spencer
Award winning journalist
September 25 2014
The power of song
Words and music, a delicious combination.
I would hear the music, sure, but I always figured it was the words that float down from a song that stayed with me the most. Then I began to ponder this notion and determined it must be a combination of the two, words and music, which make an everlasting impression on our souls. It also has to do with timing.
You have them, soundtracks of the different periods in your life. It’s not about when the songs came out. It’s when you heard them at a particular moment. They were there when you triumphed, when you failed, when you were perfect, when you made mistakes, when you loved, when you hurt, when everything seemed good, when everything seemed bad, and when everything seemed balanced. Certain songs were the markers for moments in your life.
Some of those songs gave you hope. Some inspired you. Some made you feel you weren’t the only one suffering. Some made you dance a little crazy. Some made you dance a little closer.
It’s usually a flood of nostalgia every time you hear an old song. Could be a tune from a band you never cared for, or the actual song was never particularly one of your favorites, but it has relevance to your life, makes you recall something endearing or, unfortunately, unpleasant.
Whether it was Elvis, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Bee Gees, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, or U2, everyone can name at least a dozen artists that created songs that touched their lives in one way or another. When drums go “crash, boom, bang,” or guitar notes introduce a sing-along-song well before the chorus does, it’s enough to run chills down your spine.
But back to the words. I may be bias here, being a writer, but the words to a song are the central piece of the formula. The music is the butter, the milk, the eggs, the sugar, the flour. The words are the icing—the scrumptious frosting—on the cake, what makes the cake so delectable in the first place.
Here are random lyrics to seven songs that for some reason stand out in my mind today. If you listen real hard, you can hear the music in the background.
“Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone/Little Joe was blowin’ on the slide trombone/The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang/the whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang/Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock/Everybody in the whole cell block was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.”—Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock.
“Down in the shadows of the penitentiary/Out by the gas fires of the refinery/I’m ten years burning down the road/Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go.”—Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA.
“I want to run/I want to hide/I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside.”—U2, Where The Streets Have No Name.
“Sittin’ in the morning sun/I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes/Watching the ships roll in/Then I watch them roll away again/I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay.”—Ottis Redding, Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay.
“Standing in the sunlight laughin/Hiding behind a rainbow’s wall/Slipping and a-sliding/all along the waterfall/with you, my brown-eyed girl.”—Van Morrison, Brown Eyed Girl.
“Well, there’s people and more people/What do they know, know, know/Go to work in some high-rise/and vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico/Ooh, yeah.”—John Mellencamp, Pink Houses.
“Don’t worry about a thing/cause every little thing/gonna be all right.”—Bob Marley, Three Little Birds.
Yep, words and music, a tasty combination.
Brad Spencer can be reached at Brad.E.Spencer@gmail.com
October 9 2014Glen Newton: B-N Loses a Gem
THIS UPCOMING basketball season, the seat across the aisle from mine at the Shirk Center probably won’t be empty. But it’ll sure seem that way. No offense intended to the person who parks his rump in that spot.
Former Illinois Wesleyan University basketball star, former District 87 principal, and community leader Glen Newton passed away September 23. Our town has a new hole in it, and it’s a big one.
Glen was a regular at his alma mater’s basketball games, although last season, ailing and frail, he needed his wife Shirley’s help to make his way down the steps to that seat. Once he did, a series of well wishers made their way to his side to shake his hand or squeeze his shoulder. I was always one of them. Despite his failing health, he always struggled to his feet for the national anthem.
One such greeting I will never forget: IWU Head Coach Ron Rose interrupted his final team instructions to enter the bleachers and squeeze Glen’s hand. I was close enough to hear Rose say, “You’re in my prayers, Glen.” That is one classy coach sharing intimacy with one classy, gentle man.
I first got acquainted with Newton the evening we both became hall of famers. That happy event occurred in the fall of 2008 at the District 87 Hall of Fame banquet. I was inducted into the Bloomington High School Hall of Fame while Glen was inducted into the District 87 Hall.
Because we sat at the same table, I was able to pick his brain for IWU basketball memories as well as the many he had to share about District 87. He laced his stories with gentle good humor and humility. So humble in fact it was only later I learned particulars of his highly successful college basketball career, none of which came from him.
After that evening, even though we were both retired, we grew a friendship mostly through District 87 and IWU activities.
THERE WERE plenty of District 87 memories, and why not? According to his Hall of Fame plaque, Newton “Began his teaching career with Bloomington schools in 1959 and retired in 1993 after having served as a history teacher, counselor, president of the Bloomington Education Association and principal.”
He served as principal at Bent, Irving, and Oakland schools. Longtime District 87 teacher Doug Williamson was a faculty member at Irving when Glen was principal there. Williamson’s memories of Newton are fond, fonder, and fondest.
Williamson remembers, “Everybody has great things to say about Glen. I first met and worked with him 41 years ago. I really believe if I ever heard anyone say something even slightly negative about the man, I would fall out of my chair.
“That first job was summer school and I had a parent who was angry their child had to be in both reading and math. Glen had a nice talk with the parent and got things smoothed out to everyone’s satisfaction, including the reluctant student. He did not do this by caving in to one at the expense of another. He had this personality that made people want to work with him.”
In addition, according to Williamson, Glen often “Would pay a home visit to work with parents on a child’s problem. I guarantee you this is not something everyone is comfortable with.”
NEWTON made his way to Illinois Wesleyan in 1952 from West Frankfort High School, located squarely in the middle of the Southern Illinois high school basketball hotbed. At 6-4, he was relatively tall for his time.
His basketball career at IWU under the late Jack Horenberger was highly successful. He was team captain his junior and senior years, and an all-conference selection both years as well. In the scoring department, his senior season (’55-’56) was his best; that season he scored 342 points and averaged 14.9 ppg. He scored more than 1200 points in his four-year Titan career.
But you can’t talk about the life of Glen Newton without discussing his long and distinguished commitment to community service. There are too many such activities to mention here, but his work with the WJBC Brotherhood Tree stands out.
Some 30 years ago, Glen and Shirley formed a partnership of sorts that became crucial in the development and growth of the Tree program.
According to Eric Stock, writing out of the IWU Office of Communications, “Glen was part of a small core of volunteers who helped grow the annual Christmas gift collection into what it is today. Newton helped get the program off the ground by providing names and addresses for District 87 students in need decades ago. The program has expanded to serve thousands of families across McLean County every December.”
Our town will miss Glen’s leadership. His friends will miss the kind generosity and remarkable humility of a very good man. I only wish I had gotten to know him earlier.
October 9 2014Saving the honey bee
Harvard University has joined the group of universities, which include the University of Illinois, that have learned that neonicotinoid, or neonics, pesticides do contribute to honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Imidaclopid, clothianiclen, and cyantranilirole are the most widely used. These are systemic pesticides that make all parts of the plant poisonous to honey bees and other pollinators.
Systemic pesticides are either injected into the tree or applied to the soil near the trunk, so the tree can absorb it. They are used on Ash trees, which do not produce pollen, nectar, or fruit for pollinators to eat, so they are safe. They should not be used on plants that do produce flowers The effects can be fast or slow depending on the dosage and whether other chemicals are included in the mix.
In the spring of 2014, the bees in more than 80,000 hives were found dead or damaged after working in the California almond orchards. The neonictinoid pesticides had been mixed with other chemicals following the directions on the container. The European Food Safety Authority has banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in Europe and the U.S. Fish and wildlife Service has announced this year that these potent chemicals will be banned in National Wildlife Refuge Systems by 2016.
Bee and other pollinators are very important to both the environment and to maintain our food supply. They pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that make up 90% of what we eat. One out of every three bites we take depend on the bees
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The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington
October 9 2014
Once the assembly was completed, it looked like a hen house. It being a crudely-built structure complete with a half wall; chicken wire; shingled overhang and appropriate signage identifying it as “The Chicken Hutch.” The entire display measuring about six feet long and approximately eight feet tall and was firmly attached to the rear of the meat case within East Gate IGA. This would have been during my days as the meat manager for a grocery store in the 2100 block of East Oakland Avenue in Bloomington. That building has long since been torn down and replaced with several businesses including a Jewel/Osco.
The selection of the name “Chicken Hutch” was the source of many conversations that have taken place over the years. Many have told me that it should have been called the chicken coop since the word hutch should be reserved for rabbits and not chickens. The fact that so many people took note of that sign and thus purchased lots and lots of whole fryers; cut-ups; split breasts; legs and thighs and of course backs and necks supported the miss-application of the sign. I did not mention chicken wings, because frankly I threw more of them away than I sold. But that was long before “buffalo wings” become so popular.
The fact of the matter remains that misspelled words, backward letters and inaccurate terminology often leads to feedback and impulse buying. Well, that was what I was taught in the olden days. But anyways, I seldom read a column or an advertisement without searching out mistakes within the print media. It seems that with the advantage of spellcheck; grammar, research and thesaurus, the errors are seen more often than not.
But, again I digress. The Chicken Hutch or Coop, as you prefer, happens to be something that I know a little bit about as I grew up on a farm. In spite of my vast search of my memory, I don’t recall where it was that my brothers and I built our first coop. It could have been in rural Heyworth, Odell, Flanagan, Gridley or even Colfax. I’m almost certain that my father did most of the work as he purchased all of the material and provided most of the labor. We either had, or built a hen house as daily we harvested the eggs, in addition to raising chickens for meat. Of course feeding and watering those hens while trying to avoid those mean and nasty long-necked ganders was a chore that I did not relish. Which leads to the acquisition of baby chicks. The laying hens had sufficient space to scratch around in, but adding chicks required an attached structure and a much larger pen.
Building a Chicken Coop is much simpler today than it was in the 1950’s. Today, numerous plans are available and some farm-related businesses have kits available for several hundred dollars and up. With the expertise of my father and very little sweat equity on my part, the addition was up before sundown, complete with gates, doors, windows, a ladder and easy access to the eggs. As I recall, we went to the A&B Hatchery in Bloomington (at that time it was on South Center Street) and purchased 50 to 100 baby chicks, as well as, stocking up on chicken feed and grit.
Sometime thereafter dad brought some baby pheasants, taking part in a raise and release program to aid in a dwindling peasant population in that day. But all was not rosy as we had to constantly be on the look-out for predators like dogs and raccoons and occasionally skunks. We lost a few, but still had plenty of fried chicken for Sunday dinners that still remain, in my fading memory
Till next time…john
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