Chanute's “Ole-Farts” Club and the Retiree Activities Club

At the Chanute Air Force Base, things weren’t just all classes and training. Students, faculty, staff, and even retirees found a way to have fun on the base, often with a sense of humor. This is clearest in the “Ole-Farts” Club, which ran from 1985 into the late 1990s.

Remote Requests in the Archives

Are you looking for certain historical records that are housed in the Champaign County Historical Archives? Are you too busy or far away to visit us in person? Are you unable to visit for some other reason? Champaign County Historical Archives can provide off-site patrons with photocopies or scanned images of records. There is a small charge for these services but for patrons doing research and genealogy this can be a useful opportunity to receive the material you are looking for in a quick, convenient and affordable manner.

Juneteenth Celebrations

Juneteenth, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans, was made a federal holiday in 2021 and will become an Illinois state holiday this year (2022). Originating in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, the celebration has a long history within regions and populations of the United States. Over the years, it has gone by several names, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Black Independence Day, and even various dates, September 22, January 1, and others, before settling on June 19.

Dining at the Chanute Air Force Base

Early in my internship, I created a Flickr album that includes photos of menus and dining halls on the base. Since looking at the photographs of the dining halls, I became interested in the buildings themselves. Lucking, the buildings collection contains a lot of information about housing, construction, and fortunately for us, a little bit about the dining halls!

The General is a Lady! Commanding Officer Norma E. Brown

Chanute Air Force Base hosted many notable people as faculty, staff, and students, including an array of commanding officers from the very inception of the base until its closing (1917-1993). Looking through the Commanding Officers collection, we can see that men mostly held the position of commanding officer, with a few exceptions. One such exception is Norma E. Brown, the first woman to command a United States Air Force Wing and Technical Training Center.

Documenting Land Use Changes Through Aerial Photographs

The Archives’ photograph collection contains many types of photographs, one being aerial. These aerial photographs can help track changes in neighborhoods and business districts. The changes might be from agricultural use to new residential or business use. They could also include the demolition of existing residential homes or buildings for a new mall, office building, or apartment complex. Aerial views from different angles or long-range can show additional details of other neighborhoods beyond the area of interest.

Tread Carefully

We may have made it safely out of winter, but here in the Midwest, unpredictable winters are a fact of life. There is one thing you can be sure of. When the roads are bad, it is important to drive safe, and driving safe is easier when your tires are in good shape. Speaking of tires, here is a collection of tire ads from the 1920’s.

It's Syllabus Day! Instructors and Students at the NCO Leadership School

The Chanute Air Force Base was home to non-commissioned officers. These officers rose through the ranks of their respective units and were not commissioned outside of that unit. As such, these officers were especially hard-working and dedicated. However, even the best leaders can improve their skills. The NCO Leadership School was a place where they could learn more about leadership and how to adapt their skills for their new roles.

Down the Archives Rabbit Hole

Merriam Webster defines rabbit hole as “one in which the pursuit of something (such as an answer or solution) leads to other questions, problems, or pursuits.” If you ask me, one of the best things about working in the Champaign County Historical Archives is the archives rabbit hole. One thing can, and usually does, lead to another. I had that very experience just this week and thought I’d document it here so you can see how it goes.

Chanute Snapshot: A Look at 1972

Part of the Chanute Collection contains the yearly written histories of the base. The staff of Chanute began writing down their histories beginning in 1917 and continued every year until the base’s closure in 1993. Let’s take a look back at what was happening on the base 50 years ago, in 1972.

Chanute Air Force Base’s Resident Clothing Historian: Master Sergeant Gary T. Alstrand

I found this wonderful photograph in the Chanute Collection when I first began interning on the collection in the summer of 2018. The lighthearted nature of the image delighted my fellow intern and me, but we had no identifying information about the individual, so we laid the mystery to rest. However, as I began to process the photograph collection, a few more photographs of the unnamed man wearing different uniforms popped up.

Illinois Times, a Newspaper for the Black C-U Community

Husband-wife duo, Edger and Blanche Harris founded the Illinois Times, a newspaper created to give voice and build community within the Black citizens of Champaign-Urbana. Established in 1939, the paper was first published in Danville, Illinois, when the Harrises transferred the publication to 202 Ellis Ave, Champaign. Edgar was editor and publisher, and Blanche was circulation manager and city editor. They ran the newspaper out of their house for thirty-six years.

Patches, Patches, and Patches: Processing the Chanute Heritage Committee Collection

In June, I began working on what I thought would be a small collection called the “Chanute Heritage Committee USAF Display.” This collection consisted of various patches and histories of squadrons, wings, and bases throughout the world. These were collected in 1986 and 1987 by the Chanute Heritage Committee on the base. The collection was originally housed in four file cabinet drawers.

Grateful Dead Descend on Assembly Hall

For just three special cosmic nights in Champaign County history, the Grateful Dead brought the eyes of the world onto Assembly Hall. After years of rumors, the Dead would play in Champaign. They finally made their first visit for a two-night run of concerts on February 21st and 22nd, 1973.

Negatives of the Grateful Dead at Assembly Hall in 1973. The Grateful Dead Archive, University of California at Santa Barbara

Alberta Claire: The Girl from Wyoming

Throughout American history one of our nation’s strongest assets has been our entertainment industry. From the celebrity of Benjamin Franklin wooing the French court to support the American Revolution to the modern world of social media, Americans have traded on their ability to entertain for nearly two and a half centuries.

WWII Office of Price Administration Tokens

The Archives recently received a donation that included 67 very interesting World War II OPA tokens. At first glance, I wasn’t sure what they were. They are slightly smaller than a dime and appear to be made out of wood and paper (it turns out they are made out of vulcanized fiber). The only variation among the tokens is two small letters surrounding the one in the center. After a little research, I found out that these are Office of Price Administration (OPA) tokens.