QUESTION: Can you name the popular Twin City restaurant that's also been, among other names, Strikers, Toppers Steak House and Steve's Steak House?
ANSWER: It’s Times Past Inn, in Towanda Plaza. It’s in a building built in the mid-1960s as a Toppers Steak House that became Steve’s Steak House, and then Laub’s Family Restaurant, and then The Towanda Inn, and then Strikers. That’s before current owner Art Donaldson moved into the building on Oct. 12, 1987.
QUESTION: Urban Meyer, the 50-year-old football coach of the reigning national champion Ohio State Buckeyes, previously won two national titles at University of Florida and has become one of the most successful coaches in the history of college football. Can you name where he began learning the art?
ANSWER: In 1988 and 1989, Meyer was linebackers coach at Illinois State University.
QUESTION: The women’s restroom at the Corn Crib, the baseball field near Heartland College, is hailed as one of the world’s “most luxurious” women’s restrooms. But of all the women’s restrooms in Bloomington-Normal, can you name the biggest?
ANSWER: At BCPA (the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts) downtown, one of the women’s restroom has 21 stalls. That’s believed to be the most in any restroom in the Twin Cities.
FLICK FLAK, random thoughts on Aaron Schock, marijuana growing in the area, $102 for a Rod Stewart ticket, and other such life obsessions:
- Don't you hate it when you read the nutrition label on the pizza box -- "One slice contains 15 grams of fat, 425 calories, 15 milligrams of cholesterol and 700 milligrams of sodium" -- and then you look up and notice it's called "Tombstone"?
- Is it a little odd we can send a spaceship to photograph Jupiter’s moons and Saturn's rings yet we can’t have a microwave that automatically adjusts its clock after the time-change?
- Something we’ve always wondered: if you have amnesia and can't remember anything, how do you know?
- So Aaron Schock had so many allegations mounting against him, he finally just stepped down ... and people like him so much in this area, we’re betting he could still get elected ...
- Don't you hate it when your favorite song comes on the car radio but you've reached your destination and have to get out of your car?
- As U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had 55,000 emails? 55,000? How did she have time to do anything else?
- So we hear Tari Renner gave up reading blogs for Lent.
- If we’re going to be growing acres and acres of marijuana, can you imagine how high the summertime rabbits are going to be out in the fields? Are we going to eventually need Rabbit Rehab?
- Central Illinois look-alikes: Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner and former President George W. Bush. (Suggested by Roger Miller, of Normal)
- If I never tell the waiter to stop grinding the pepper, will he just continue?
- Have you noticed something a little odd about Gov. Bruce Rauner? He looks different in almost every picture in the paper.
- Remember when you paid $3.99 to buy and hear your Rod Stewart album, not $102 a seat to watch him at the Coliseum?
- An unresearched rule of thumb: The number of years you smoked is the number of pounds you can expect to gain when you quit.
- As for that well-traveled street in east Bloomington, is it to be "Eldo-RAY-doe" or "Eldo-RAW-doe"?
- Before the Internet, did anyone use the @ key?
- Or, before Twitter, the #?
- Flak from the Flock:
-- "Does anyone actually use the clock radios in hotel/motel rooms anymore? (Dan Deneen, Bloomington)
-- “Ever noticed governing is a game of give-and-take … the taxpayer gives and the government takes?” (George Miller, Normal)
-- "Is it an IL wind that blows across this state?" (Becky Weber, Normal)
QUESTION: True or false? While only a class of about 500 students, Illinois Wesleyan University's Class of 2018 nonetheless has a first place female champion in karate, a musician who has performed at both the White House and the Vatican, a student who was a reporter at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, five who are twins and another who is related to Werner Klemperer, the actor who portrayed Colonel Klink on the popular late 1960s TV series, Hogan's Heroes.
ANSWER: That's all true.
Question: Fifty years ago, there was a proposal to potentially re-name one area college Central Illinois University. Do you know which university that was? (a) Eureka College; (b) Illinois State University; (c) Millikin University; (d) Knox College; (e) Illinois Wesleyan University.
Answer: It was (b) Illinois State University. Called Illinois State Normal University for more than a century, the Illinois Legislature approved a name change for ISNU. Among the names proposed in 1963: Illinois State University at Normal, Illinois State University for Teacher Education and Central Illinois University. But the more succinct Illinois State University won out.
Question: What Central Illinois county is immortalized at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston?
Answer: Among the memorabilia prominently on display there: a placard from the 1960 presidential campaign that reads, “Tazewell County for Kennedy!”
Have you noticed lately the lines at Auto Wash or those new Rainstorm car washes popping up around town?
There have been so many cars neatly lined up, idling, waiting, it looks like the beginning of a parade line, or some real popular guy’s funeral procession getting ready to wind out to East Lawn.
Did you happen to see last weekend the outdoor beer gardens at places like Schooner's on East Grove or Pub II on Linden?
After not drawing anything that moves for months — except snowflakes, polar vortices and perhaps a bit of ice shrapnel from nearby plows — suddenly they were standing-room-only.
Ditto Emach & Bolio’s ice cream store in uptown, where you about need a reservation.
QUESTION: True or false? As one of his last acts as governor, Gov. Pat Quinn pardoned a retired Illinois State University professor.
ANSWER: That's true — and the story is much more interesting than that. In January, Quinn posthumously pardoned Dr. Samuel Willard who was a professor of Latin and English literature at Illinois State Normal University in 1858-59. Willard, along with his father, Julius A. Willard, had also been convicted of harboring a slave in 1843 at Jacksonville. (Our thanks to B-N genealogist Roger Hughes for the find.)
QUESTION: If you’d have enrolled in 1935 at Illinois State University and pledged to finish your course study and then teach in Illinois, how much was the tuition for that student?
ANSWER: Absolutely nothing. Tuition was free for those who pledged to teach in Illinois. Tuition for others, by the way, was only $37.50.
QUESTION: As you stand in the terminal at Central Illinois Regional Airport and look around at all the others booking or waiting for a flight, can you name the most likely destination for them? (a) Orlando; (b) Atlanta; (c) Denver; (d) Dallas-Fort Worth; (e) Las Vegas.
ANSWER: It’s (a) Orlando, if you go by Aviation DataMiner statistics that in a recent six-month polling found the Florida city to be CIRA’s top destination. Orlando was followed by Denver, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Fort Myers, Fla.
QUESTION: Bloomington-based State Farm’s leading competitor in the auto insurance world is GEICO, a company that seemingly came out of nowhere in the last decade. How old is GEICO? And just what does the word “GEICO” actually stand for?
ANSWER: GEICO has been around for nearly 80 years, founded in 1936 by a man and his wife (Leo and Lillian Goodwin, Sr.) who saw a need to provide auto insurance directly to federal government employees and their families. That’s where GEICO gets its name — Government Employees Insurance Company.
Some things in life just don't mix: So you’ve probably noticed that, even if hands-free, talking on your phone in your car still impedes your ability to drive a car.
Now a University of Illinois study has found the reverse is true, too, that you don’t communicate nearly as well when you are driving and on a phone, and that making decisions while driving is also hazardous, too.
As the U of I study says, “Although not often thought of, driving a car reduces one’s ability to comprehend, to do clear, concise thinking and use language properly.”
Remember the old joke about not being to think and chew gum at the same time ... apparently wasn’t a joke.
Today’s deep thought
QUESTION: In TV Guide's list of "Television's 100 All-Time Most Memorable Moments," Biggest Moment No. 40 was assuredly one of the most watched TV moments in Bloomington-Normal, too. Can you name why?
ANSWER: Airing 40 years ago tonight, the March 18, 1975 episode of M*A*S*H is listed by TV Guide as the 40th most memorable moment in the history of television. The episode starred Bloomington favorite son, McLean Stevenson, who grew up here, went to school here and always considered Bloomington his home.
Question: Illinois is known for being No. 1 in America in corn, soybean and pumpkin production, but it also is No. 1 in production of another, less-publicized crop. What is it?
Answer: Horseradish. The area of Illinois around Collinsville and Belleville, just east of St. Louis, is one of the richest horseradish-growing areas in the world.
Question: Can you name Bloomington-Normal’s tie to the John Grisham bestseller, “Pelican Brief,” later made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts?
Answer: On Page 74 of the book — it’s about the murder of an American “power-schmoozer” — Grisham says the character rubbed shoulders with some of the “world's most powerful men in business” including the CEO of Bloomington-based State Farm. A star of that movie, we might add, is Sam Shepard, who 16 years after the movie was made (1993) was arrested on North Main Street in Normal and charged with a drunken driving.
So what 25 years ago was a Walmart, and 10 years later a Ks Merchandise, is now a "brand-new," much-anticipated Hy-Vee grocery store.
But, K's Merchandise?
Yes, it used to also be where Petco is today, too.
Oh, you don't remember that?
Lucas Leaver is a kindergartner at Grove Elementary School in Normal. He loves swimming. He does Tai-Kwon-Do.
Lucas is your typical 6-year-old.
Except that his grandma not long ago passed from lung cancer, and his mom, Laura, sees a doctor regularly for a heart condition.
All of that gave Lucas an idea.
A few months ago, after a friend in St. Louis donated some money to a charity, Lucas decided he wanted to raise some, too, to benefit cardio diseases.
QUESTION: It was back in 2000, after Kankakee was rated the “worst city in America to live,” that late-night TV host David Letterman jokingly sent the Illinois town of 27,000 two wooden yard gazebos “to brighten up the place.” Whatever happened to the gazebos?
ANSWER: Kankakee put the gazebos in a park. However, upset when they read about the gazebos’ origin during a recent history project, an American Experiences class at Kankakee High School (taught by an Illinois State University alumnus, Bill Curt) last month dismantled one off the gazebos and announced plans to send Letterman a rocking chair made from its scrap wood. That will occur, they say, in advance of Letterman’s retirement in May. According to “State-side,” an ISU campus blog, Letterman is sending a crew to Kankakee to film a segment to air before his last show, scheduled for May 20.
QUESTION: One of the winningest high school basketball programs in America is Centralia, in southern Illinois, and the team also has one of the most unique nicknames in America — the Orphans. How did they get that nickname?
ANSWER: The team got its nickname in the early 1900s when the boys basketball team made it to the state tournament. The school was low on funds and forced to pick its uniforms from a pile of nonmatching red uniforms. That’s when an observer commented that the team looked like “nothing more than a bunch of orphans.” And the name stuck. The girls teams in Centralia are, by the way, the Orphan Annies.
QUESTION: Richard Jenkins is the 67-year-old actor who you've seen often in supporting-actor roles, like as the deceased patriarch, Nathaniel Fisher, on the popular HBO drama, "Six Feet Under." Then in 2008, he also was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor in the movie, "The Visitor." Do you know where Jenkins met his wife, Sharon?
ANSWER: At Illinois Wesleyan University. That's where they both graduated in 1969. Married that year as well, 46 years later, they have two grown children, Andrew Richard and Sarah Pamela, and live in Cumberland, R.I. He has been a commencement speaker at IWU.
QUESTION: 1984’s “Places In The Heart” won an Academy Award for Sally Field and was the “break-out” movie for John Malkovich, the ex-Illinois State University drama student. It was shot at a farmhouse in Waxahachie, Texas. Thirty-one years later, the same Texas farmhouse was the shooting locale for what movie in theaters today? (a) “Whiplash,” (b) “Hoovey,” (c) “Gone Girl;” (d) “Selma,” (e) “Boyhood.”
ANSWER: It’s (b) “Hoovey,” the inspirational, faith-based story of Eric “Hoovey” Elliott and his Bloomington-Normal-area family. In “Hoovey,” the Texas farmhouse “plays” the Shirley home of the Elliotts.
And now, to prove again that the greatest of all comedies in life is still just life itself, we proudly present another installment of News Is Stranger Than Fiction, this column’s monthly collection of news stories, as culled from the wires and leading papers …
OK, "proudly” -- at least in some cases -- might not be the correct adverb ...
- In Bristol, Pa., a man who was robbing a home while its occupants were on vacation for a week accidentally locked himself inside the garage and was forced to live on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food until the homeowners returned.
- At a funeral in Los Angeles, as the hearse containing the casket and body idled outside the church, mourners stood awestruck as an unknown man got into the hearse and drove off with it. Caught by police 30 minutes later, the man was charged with auto theft and the hearse was returned to the church, where the funeral then continued as planned.
- In Florida, in an attempt to target transgender people who have been using both men's and women's restrooms in buildings, a legislator introduced legislation that would jail people for using the “wrong” restroom and require restroom users to use the one that matches their birth certificates. As one opponent to such a bill offered during a Statehouse debate: "Have we honestly reached a point in time where we have to show birth papers in order to pee?"
- At a wedding ceremony in Rampur, India, after her husband-to-be had an epileptic seizure during the ceremony and the rest of it had to be canceled, the bride was reportedly “so furious about not being told about his medical condition” that she asked a guest in the audience if he instead would marry her. He said “yes,” and their ceremony continued.
- In Spartanburg, S.C., a 30-year-old woman was charged with domestic abuse when she put a gun to the head of her live-in boyfriend on Valentine's Day night and told him they would make love that night or he'd "had it." The man called police instead.
- At John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, after she threw a “violent” tantrum that was said to have endangered the crew and passengers, a Korean Air jet was forced to return to the gate and the daughter of the airline’s CEO was arrested. That all occurred after she became "uncontrollable and angry" about being offered nuts in a bag instead of in a dish.
- In Montana, fearful that form-fitting pants “accentuate body parts” and “draw the eye to the lower abdominal regions of the human anatomy,” a Republican state representative introduced legislation outlawing the wearing of yoga pants and Speedo swim suits in public. “Specific parts of the body,” said David Moore, “should be left to the imagination.”
- At a bank in Plymouth, Minn., after eyewitnesses said they saw the feet of a 91-year-old woman dragging lifelessly under her wheelchair as her son hurriedly wheeled her in to make an $850 withdrawal for him, authorities launched a probe first to see if during the visit, the woman was dead.
- In Fountain, Colo., orange-clad firefighters tethered to the shore carefully navigated a frozen pond to rescue two 1,200-pound cows that had wandered out and then unwittingly taken the Polar Plunge.
Finally, our own monthly favorite:
- During a police lineup in Los Angeles where detectives asked each man in the lineup to repeat the words -- "Give me all your money or I'll shoot" -- they were aided in the middle of the recitations when one of the men in the lineup said, “That's not what I said.”
QUESTION: Since the opening of Bloomington’s U.S. Cellular Coliseum in April 2006, can you name the two acts to sell out the quickest? (a) Sugarland; (b) John Mayer; (c) Jeff Dunham; (d) Kenny Chesney; (e) Brad Paisley.
ANSWER: It was (a) Sugarland and (d) Kenny Chesney. Both sold out in less than a minute.
Question: At 6 this morning was the much-awaited opening in Bloomington of the Hy-Vee grocery store, a sprawling place of merchandise that is, at least at the moment, the biggest Hy-Vee store in America. But come to think of it, what does Hy-Vee stand for?
Answer: The company was founded 85 years ago, in 1930, in Beaconsfield, Iowa, by Charles Hyde and David Vredenburg. The Hy-Vee name, a contraction of Hyde and Vredenburg, was adopted in 1952, as the winning entry of an employee contest.
Question: Once a mid-sized manufacturing town west of Chicago, Aurora has grown tremendously over the past 50 years, blossoming into a city of 200,000 that amazingly stretches across four counties (Kane, DuPage, Will and Kendall). It also is known as the “City of Lights.” Do you know why that is?
Answer: Aurora was one of the first cities in the United States to implement an all-electric street lighting system (in 1881). In 1908, it officially made "City of Lights" its motto to honor that achievement.
If not for Bloomington's David Davis, a confidante and close friend who convinced him to go for bigger things in life — like the presidency — Abraham Lincoln probably would have just stayed around here as a lawyer, maybe going to weekly Rotary, possibly doing his day's rendition of Jay Janssen TV commercials to round up more clients.
He certainly never would have changed the course of American history.
If not for Bloomington's David Davis, who helped guide the career of a younger, namesake cousin — David Davis Walker — and set a path for the Walker family (the eldest Walkers are buried in a cemetery in south Bloomington), the family tree never would have branched as it did.
That, in turn, would have never led to today's Davis-Walker-Bush line that includes President George Herbert Walker Bush, and his son, President George Walker Bush, and now Jeb, who is strongly hinting that he wants to be president, too.
Yes, that's three, maybe four, presidents whose trails can be traced back to East Monroe Street in Bloomington where Davis lived.
QUESTION: It was January 2014 that Illinoisans began to be able to legally carry a registered gun, as Illinois legalized "concealed carry." In Bloomington alone, has crime gone up or down since the change?
ANSWER: Could be a coincidence, but cases of "serious criminal incidents" (homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault and/or battery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson) dropped 13.3 percent in Bloomington in 2014, the first year of "concealed carry." That computes out to 307 fewer cases of violent crime in Bloomington, its biggest crime drop in 26 years according to the annual Uniform Crime Report. That included a 49 percent drop in robberies and a 26 percent decrease in business and residential burglaries.
QUESTION: All professional performers and acts have special requests, known as “riders,” in their contracts that ask for specific items to be on-stage or in their dressing rooms. Are they always granted?
ANSWER: Nope. As an example, at Illinois State University’s Braden Auditorium, a female performer (the university does not reveal names) asked for a specific brand of water that is sold only in Colorado. When she received Evian instead, the performer reportedly then threw the bottles out of her dressing room one at a time while punctually announcing, “This is NOT the water I asked for.”
QUESTION: At night, just before bed, does the governor of Illinois (or spouse) walk around the Governor’s Mansion and turn off the lights?
ANSWER: No. One governor, Jim Edgar, learned that on his first night in the mansion back in 1991 (he served until 1999). After Edgar’s wife, Brenda, walked around and flipped off the lights, the Edgars got a midnight phone call from Illinois State Police who told the Edgars it is their job to do that. “As governor, it’s a whole different level and whole new life,” says Edgar.