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.
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.
How 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.
On June 24, 2019, the world lost the legendary bluegrass musician Jeff Austin at the age of 45. Austin was a founding member of the popular newgrass group Yonder Mountain String Band, and later the front man for his own group, the Jeff Austin Band. Austin was a singer, songwriter, and mandolin virtuoso. His fast and untamed style redefined what a mandolinist could do as a staple of bluegrass instrumentation. Austin’s fire, passion, and aura were ever present the moment he struck his first strings on stage. He was a rock star in a world of bluegrass and will be remembered as one of the most influential, profound, and impressive musicians in the history of the genre.
Summer is here, which has brought extra life to downtown Champaign. The warm weather means you can sit outside at bars and restaurants, see live music on the street, and attend a number of festivals. One thing you won’t find though is a pedestrian shopping mall. That version of downtown is a thing of the past, from 1975-1986 to be precise. This blog post is a walk down memory lane, or Neil Street rather.
Trees have been on my mind lately since I lost ¾ of a silver maple in my front yard during the overnight storms that hit Champaign and Urbana at the end of May. I knew the tree wasn’t in the best condition. There was at least one hollow section that housed a raccoon, but otherwise, the tree appeared healthy. Fully leafed out it provided shade to our hosta, mayapples, wild ginger and a home to several squirrel nests and possibly a possum in addition to the raccoon. Now however, the squirrels have moved to a red oak across the way, I haven’t seen the raccoon, and in a few weeks the remainder of the tree is scheduled to be taken down. I’m sad to see it go.
From 1983 to 1992, Donald Weckhorst worked tirelessly to complete an impressive pictorial history book about Chanute Air Force Base. Along with the over 300 people who donated records for the book, Weckhorst also reached out to a young self-taught artist named Norine Welk to do some drawings for the book. Welk drew ultra-realistic landscapes and portraits using ballpoint pens and colored pencils on cream-toned paper.
Among the many books in the Archives collection are some that were written or compiled by local residents. Animal Stories of Champaign County: Summer is a delightful book of selections from Champaign County newspaper articles that mention animals. It was compiled and donated by Chuck Fanakos of Tolono, Illinois.
Here in Champaign County the school year is drawing to a close. University students have finished their Spring semester, many have headed home for the summer, and K-12 students and teachers are eagerly awaiting their own summer break. For those individuals in the Air Force, however, education is often asynchronous. Basic Training is and was, generally, eight and a half weeks long and the technical training that followed could vary from six to 72 weeks depending on the career field that the airmen and officer’s followed.
The first airplane to reach Chanute Field was a Curtiss JN-4D “Jenny.” Traveling over sixty mph, Chanute Captain W.W. Spain passed over the base on Tuesday, July 3, 1917 at 11:25am. Residents from Rantoul and nearby Paxton gathered on the streets and watched from railroad tracks as the Jenny flew more than 1,000 feet above them.
It is officially springtime and we are heading into ripe storm territory. Luckily for those of us in Urbana and Champaign, we have an abundance of tornado sirens to warn us of impending danger. These lifesaving devices that can be heard on the first Tuesday of the month during testing are actually a fairly old technology.
Charles Van Doren died this month at the age of 93. Known for his participation and eventual guilty plea in the quiz shows scandals of the 1950s what made Van Doren’s rise and eventual fall spectacular was his background. His obituary in The New York Times puts it this way:
In the heyday of quiz shows in the 1950s, when scholarly housewives and walking encyclopedia nerds battled on “The $64,000 Question” and “Tic-Tac-Dough,” Mr. Van Doren was a rare specimen: a handsome, personable young intellectual with solid academic credentials, a faculty post at a prestigious university and an impressive family pedigree.
On March 16, 1992, former Chanute cook and World War II veteran Donald R. Hakala wrote to base historian Don Weckhorst asking for recipes from his time at the base. Hakala fondly remembered cooking in the Chanute kitchens and serving the men and women of the base breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the 1950s. By 1992 Hakala, was getting on in years and eager to revisit his life as a cook on the base to share the stories and recipes with his family and friends.
On March 29, 1940, Jackson Luker of Urbana, IL filed an application at the United States Patent Office for his angel food cake package called Pan-O-Cake. His patent claimed that the way the cakes were shipped and packaged uniquely protected the angel food cakes so that they could be transported and kept for multiple weeks without damaging the air cells within the cake. He was granted the patent in 1942.
Although I grew up in the piedmont of North Carolina, my mother and her family hails from the north Georgia mountains deep in Appalachia. The Foxfire books, which captured the oral history, crafts, and traditions of Appalachian culture, were a constant in our household. Imagine my delight upon discovering that south-central Illinois has its own version, Tales from the General Store, and that they are accessible for FREE through the Digital Public Library of America.
Mary Ruth Clemons (1910-1992) was born in Marion, Illinois on February 18, 1910 to John Robert and Edith Caroline Grant Crenshaw. In the 1920s, Clemons attended Marion Township High School. Following high school, she enrolled in Browns’ Business College in Marion, Illinois. Browns’ was a chain of schools founded by George W. Brown in the 1870s that focused on specialized office jobs, such as bookkeeping, stenography, cashier work, and clerkship. During their 10-month school year, Clemons rigorously trained in bookkeeping, commercial arithmetic, writing, commercial law, business correspondence, spelling, shorthand, typewriting, indexing and filing in preparation for a secretarial career.