Local History and Genealogy Blog

Halloween at Chanute

Winners of the costume contest, Mrs. Hill and M. Sgt. R. L. Jackson pose for a photograph. Published in Chanute Field Wings on Friday, October 31, 1941.On Halloween in 1941, the Chanute Air Force Base (CAFB) saw a spooky night hosted by the Non-Commissioned Officer’s (NCO) club. “Ghosts, goblins, and broom riding witches cavorted beneath a bright harvest moon as the Chanute NCO club staged its annual Halloween Hop Saturday evening.” The event featured an award for the best costumes. The award was presented to Mrs. Hill, the wife of master sergeant Joe Hill, for her costume as Annie Oakley. Mrs. Hill’s western dress, prop gun and holster, and large ten gallon hat made for a quite compelling costume. Mrs. Hill shared the spotlight with master sergeant R. L. Jackson who humorously presented himself as “a professor of Science.” Bespectacled by horn-rimmed glasses, a professorial overcoat, and a long wig, Jackson inspired laughter amongst his fellow party goers. Read more about Halloween at Chanute

From the Mailbox: the Original Alleys of Urbana

Crane Alley, Urbana, spring 1997If you’ve spent much time walking the streets of downtown Urbana, you might have noticed that there are a few alleys with their names displayed. Crane Alley is well known not only because of the restaurant of the same name, but also due to ornate wrought iron arches at each end. There is an arch for Cherry Alley featured prominently in the landscaped walkway outside the Urbana Free Library. Lastly, there is also an iron arch with the name Fish Alley located on Race Street, between Main and Elm. You may have asked yourself: What is the story behind these alleys? Where do they get their names? These are the kinds of questions you can ask us in the Archives!

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Chanute Air Force Base Closure: 26 Year Anniversary

On this day, September 30th, twenty-six years ago Chanute Air Force Base closed its doors along with several other Air Force bases across the country. Even though Chanute witnessed many changes in the United States, from the Great Depression to the technology boom in the 1980s, 1988 was the beginning of the end of an era for Chanute. It was a transition period in the United States as the Cold War came to an end and Americans were encouraged to look forward to a time where military force was no longer necessary. As plans unfolded, many people feared the effect Chanute’s closing would have on the Rantoul community. For those who are just learning about Chanute today, it is difficult to imagine how much an impact the Base had on the day-to-day life in Rantoul. However, when you compare the photos here, one from the 1917-1930s and the other from the 1990s, it is clear to see that when Chanute Air Force Base evolved so did the surrounding area. When the Base grew and expanded its influence so did local businesses, schools, and community groups.

Aerial photo of Chanute AFB and Rantoul, 1917-1930s   Aerial photo of Chanute AFB and Rantoul, 1990s Read more about Chanute Air Force Base Closure: 26 Year Anniversary

The Barling Bomber

Barling Bomber

Only one Wittemann-Lewis XNBL-1 “Barling Bomber” was ever built. At the time, the Barling Bomber was the world’s largest plane. According to the November 15, 1923 issue of the Rantoul Weekly Press, the plane was powered by six Liberty motor propellers (four tractor types and two puller types), 2,000-gallon gas tank, and had a top speed of 75 mph. Read more about The Barling Bomber

Cohen Family: Sol Cohen

Sol Cohen, December 1940 Sol Cohen was born on January 11, 1891, the youngest son of Nathan and Addie Cohen. Much like his father, he was enamored by music at an early age. He studied violin with Charles Foster in Urbana until 1903 when he began traveling on the weekends to study under violinist Emile Sauret at Chicago Musical College. Sauret had performed with Sol’s father, Nathan during his musical career in California. Read more about Cohen Family: Sol Cohen

Cohen Family: Julius Cohen

Julius Cohen, January 1941Born on May 15, 1888, Julius Cohen was the second son of Nathan and Addie Cohen. From a young age, Julius studied music. He studied vocals with his great aunt Clara Bernetta in New York for several years. As a young man, he traveled to Budapest, Hungary, with his younger brother Sol, to study with some of the best vocalists in the world. When the United States entered World War I, Julius set aside his musical career and served with the American Expeditionary Force in France. Upon returning home, he resumed his musical career. Read more about Cohen Family: Julius Cohen

Cohen Family: Sidney Cohen

Captain Sidney CohenSidney Cohen was born on June 26, 1885. The eldest son of Nathan and Addie Cohen, he was the only Cohen to not pursue a career in music. Instead, he studied law and spent time working first in his father’s cigar factory then at a local bank. Read more about Cohen Family: Sidney Cohen

The Cohen Family

"A musical evening at the Cohen's house at the turn of the century. From left: Addie Cohen, Sydney, Sol, Julius, and Nat H. Cohen." Image from "Amid the Alien Corn: 100 years of Sinai Temple in Champaign, IL, 1904-2004

Addie Bernstein Cohen, a locally noted soprano often compared to Jenny Lind, was the daughter of Solomon and Fannie Bernstein, the first Jewish residents to permanently settle in Urbana in 1854. She married Nathan H. Cohen, former vaudevillian and cigar manufacturer, and had three sons: Sidney, Sol, and Julius. The Cohens were a musical family and were active in the local musical clubs and amateur theater circles entertaining Jewish and Christian groups alike.     Read more about The Cohen Family

Chanute Spotlight: Daniel L. Pearl, The Man with the Camera

One of the Chanute Collection’s strengths is its impressive photograph collection covering the base’s history. These thousands of photographs were gathered by base historians as well as donated by hundreds of former base personnel. One contributor was Dan Pearl. Pearl was seemingly present at all the major Chanute events during the 1970s and 1980s.  After the base closed, a large number of his photographs were put on display in the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum and the Champaign County Historical Archives preserves these photographs today. Read more about Chanute Spotlight: Daniel L. Pearl, The Man with the Camera

From the Mailbox: Overia Barringer & the Freedom Celebration Parade

Overia Barringer, July 4, 1969How did you celebrate Independence Day this year? For many people, the Fourth of July is a time to grab a lawn chair and watch the Champaign County Freedom Celebration Parade. For Overia Barringer it was a time to don an ornate patriotic costume and join the parade march. From 1949 to at least 1978, Barringer participated in the parade every year.

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