Question: True or false? Lincoln, Ill., is famous because it is the only city in the world named after Abe before he was president, but it is a development in manhole covers made in Lincoln that perhaps has left a bigger mark on the world.
Answer: That’s true. Before the 1930s, manhole covers were square. Square manhole covers, while easier to handle, can be turned and dropped down through the hole and lost. That’s when employees at a Lincoln foundry are said to have developed round manhole covers. And the rest is history …
NORMAL — It sits at the end of a dead-end in a little known outstretch — Warehouse Road, on the far north edge of Normal — a nondescript, sky-blue-colored Morton building that looks like a warehouse. And, it is.
But my goodness, what's inside.
Like the hat two-time presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson was wearing on the day in 1965 when as America's U.N. ambassador he fell over on a London street and passed to the ages. His briefcase is there, too.
There is the sword that Charles Hovey, first president of Illinois State University, a pal of Lincoln’s, namesake of the hall and street in Normal, took into battle in the Civil War. It’s still sharp.
In a file is the contract that then-ISU instructor David Foster Wallace signed in 1995 for publication of “Infinite Jest,” the book that today is one of the most celebrated pieces of post-modern literature and the subject of a soon-to-be-released movie.
QUESTION: Barry Manilow, the pop artist, back in the 1970s wrote State Farm’s now timeless “Like a good neighbor” advertising jingle. While everyone knows the lyrics — “… Just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” — do you know ALL the words that Manilow wrote for the jingle?
ANSWER: “Whenever you’re driving, And wherever you’re bound, On freeways and byways, The whole country round. You’ll feel better knowin’, Anytime, anywhere, That like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Your home’s where your heart is, It’s a feeling that grows, The house that you live, The love that it shows. You’ll feel better knowin’, Anytime, anywhere, That like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. We all hope the good times, Never leave us behind. We face our tomorrows, With some peace of mind. No man has a promise, Of a life without care. And like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
QUESTION: Two cities in Illinois rank as “great college towns,” according to a 2015 American Institute for Economic Research ranking. It rates cities that are “not only good places to get an education” but also “are amenable to student activities, have places where students like to relax and recreate and also offer an availability of student-level jobs.” Can you name the two Illinois college towns?
ANSWER: The AIER says Champaign-Urbana is the seventh best “college town” in America and Chicago is No. 15. None of the other cities in Illinois that have colleges make the top 75.
QUESTION: Dartmouth is an Ivy League college of educational renown in Hanover, N.H. But if on-campus and checking into one of the university’s residential dormitories these days, why might you feel as if you’d never left Illinois?
ANSWER: One of the dorms there is Rauner Hall, named after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diane. Rauner graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics from Dartmouth College in 1978. At Dartmouth, he also studied English horn, played in the orchestra and won several statewide music honors.
Question: OK, is Hillary Rodham Clinton the first woman to run for U.S. president?
Answer: Nope. That title belongs to Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872, a suffragette and a candidate of the Equal Rights Party. A candidate for president that same year, except in the Republican Party, was Bloomington’s David Davis.
FLICK FLAK, random thoughts on women's dry-cleaning, a school named Gonzaga, eyebrows and other such life obsessions. And the plane crash, too:
- Another difference in the sexes: Men wear boots to combat snow, mud, ice, murk. Women wear boots for everything but any of that.
- If McDonald's is about to serve all-day breakfast, just how long can it be before the all-American breakfast becomes pancakes, sausage and a side order of large fries?
- Ever noticed it costs $5 to dry-clean a women’s shirt, but only $1.85 if it’s a man’s shirt? Is that really fair?
- If not for the NCAA basketball tournament and millions filling out their brackets, would Gonzaga just be thought of as maybe a laundry detergent or a country somewhere in Africa?
- So how come God didn't also develop dognip?
- Central Illinois look-alikes: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas, now a presidential candidate) and Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. (As suggested by Brian Schuneman, of Bloomington)
- Ever noticed TV cameras are addicted to attractive women at ballparks?
- If Illinois now even has an “official state polka,” how long before someone records, “Roll Out The Pork Barrel”?
- Is it ironic that the Amish are now known for building great home entertainment centers?
- Five more things in life you tend to either love or hate:
-- Tea Party members.
QUESTION: It's April 15, tax day in America, and as an Illinoisan you might be wondering just where we rank in terms of paying taxes. Out of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, do you know how Illinois ranks in terms of being taxed?
ANSWER: If you believe WalletHub.com, a leading U.S. researcher of such statistics, you might want to quickly turn the page before your read any further — because it says Illinois overall is the worst state in America to live when it comes to being taxed. Only New Jersey beats us in high real-estate taxes; we're No. 30 in paying income taxes; 27th in sales and excise taxes. Overall, we are No. 51. Only in vehicle property tax do we do well. That's because in Illinois we don't pay a vehicle property tax.
Question: Abe Lincoln was assassinated 150 years ago tonight, at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., when his self-appointed bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon, did not accompany Lincoln to the theater. Do you know where Lamon was from?
Answer: A longtime friend of Lincoln's and a large (6-foot-4), imposing man, Ward Hill Lamon lived in Bloomington and was district attorney for McLean County before moving to Washington, D.C., when Lincoln was elected. Lamon Drive (off Hershey Road, in east Bloomington) is named after him.
As Bloomington-Normal continues to sprawl way beyond its original boundary line — Division Street — have you noticed something? Even if we live here, it's difficult to know just where we are.
By that, I mean Bloomington. Or Normal?
Pencils out! With the help of city maps, GPS and a nice assist from Jim Karch, Bloomington's director of Public Works, we've put together a "Where's Waldo — Bloomington or Normal" quiz. It's 15 questions, with the answers to follow.
1) When you catch a movie at the Galaxy 14 Cinemas (Wehrenberg) on the cities' west side, are you in Bloomington or Normal? What about if you drive just to the north of the theaters, to the Crossroads Center?
Question: Nothing may mirror inflation better than the prices of new homes. As an example, can you name the price of the most expensive new home sold in Bloomington-Normal in 1982?
Answer: According to a 1982 real estate guide published in this newspaper, a new home near Bloomington Country Club listed as an “executive bracket" property went for $212,000. People, of course, thought the buyers were nuts to spend that much.
QUESTION: When outgoing Rep. Aaron Schock stepped down from the U.S. House, in a final speech he compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, angering some Lincoln fans. But coincidentally, Lincoln and Schock allegedly have what likeness when it comes to travel reimbursement?
ANSWER: Schock was accused of over-billing for mileage on his Chevy Tahoe. Coincidentally, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Horace Greeley’s New-York Tribune used data in the mid-1800s to track how members of Congress were taking advantage of mileage reimbursement rules and cited how Lincoln, a one-term congressman from this district of Illinois in the 1850s, collected $677 in excess mileage reimbursement — more than $18,700 today — and was “among the House’s worst” at billing the government for such.
QUESTION: Can you find a Casey’s General Store in the entire city of Chicago?
ANSWER: No. In fact, Bloomington-Normal is a “big” city for a Casey’s to be located. Sixty percent (1,020) of their nearly 1,700 stores are located in communities of less than 5,000 residents; and 85% of the Casey’s stores are in communities with less than 20,000 residents.
QUESTION: Is Illinois a "blue state" or a "red state"?
ANSWER: Although Illinois is a "blue state," meaning it leans Democratic, in land mass it is easily a "red state" (Republican). In fact, Illinois isn’t really a blue state — only Chicago is. In 2012 as an example, even if Barack Obama crushed Mitt Romney, 59% to 41%, in popular vote in Illinois, county-wise Romney crushed Obama, with 78 counties for Romney and 24 for Obama. The difference was obviously Cook County (Chicago), which has 5.4 million people.
QUESTION: The gas tank on a Connect Transit city bus is naturally rather large. Do you know how many gallons a transit bus gas tank holds?
ANSWER: Those buses have 125-gallon tanks. Talk about one civic entity very happy with lower gas prices.
Life is weird and then you die, joked the late great comedian, Rodney Dangerfield.
And golly, "weird" can be quite an understatement ...
Our April installment of News Is Stranger Than Fiction, recent news stories as culled from the wires and nation's leading papers:
In Santa Cruz, Calif., a 30-year-old man sentenced to three months on a firearms possession charge had his mug shot posted on a county website ... and because of his high cheekbones, sharp jaw and starkly blue eyes, he began being "inundated" with offers from modeling agencies and marketing companies. Now out of jail, Jeremy Meeks has landed a multi-million-dollar contract with a leading clothes designer, thanks to the firearms conviction.
On the popular PBS show, “Antiques Roadshow,” a person who had been told his 19th century Frederic Remington painting “was probably worth at least $1,000” was surprised to learn it was actually worth “between $800,000 and $1.1 million.” “Wow,” said the delighted owner, “I guess I’ll have to be extra careful taking it back home.”
QUESTION: Olney is a town in southeastern Illinois of 9,000 residents and several hundred white squirrels, an albino breed so coveted there, they have "squirrel protection" laws. Do you know what the fine is for violating these laws?
ANSWER: Fines for violating Olney’s white squirrel laws can cost you up to $750 per offense.
Question: Of America’s 12 best Italian chain restaurants, MSN says Bloomington-Normal has three of them. Do you know what they are?
Answer: Fazoli’s is at No. 12, according to MSN. Olive Garden is No. 7. Bloomington’s own Biaggi’s is up to No. 11 in America. Buca di Beppo, which has a restaurant in Champaign, is No. 8. No. 1 is Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and there are only two of those in Illinois — one in Naperville and the other in Woodridge.
Question: In Bloomington, do you know why McClun and Hannah streets are next to each other?
Answer: That’s John E. McClun, one of the area’s first prominent judges, and his beloved wife, Hannah. Now, 150 years later, they are still together.
It was a year ago that Amie Keeton was watching TV and happened to see a clip of that National Easter Egg Roll out on the South Lawn of the White House. She said to her husband, Joel, “I wonder how one gets to do that?”
She researched and discovered there's a lottery.
So, what the heck, she entered the three Keeton kids in this year's lottery and forgot about it.
Thus Monday morning, as Barack and Michelle Obama start them off, amid 35,000 expected on the grounds (the largest event of the year at the White House) will also be Miles, Owen and Lillie Keeton — ages 12, 10 and soon-to-be 9 — there with their mom, Amie, and grandmom, Maureen Lenzie.
QUESTION: Only one college in the United States has ever been named after Winston Churchill, the British politician and prime minister during the World War II era. Do you know where Winston Churchill College was located? (a) Decatur, Ala.; (b) Quincy, Ill.; (c) Springfield, Ore.; (d) Pontiac, Ill.
ANSWER: A two-year, private, co-educational, nondenominational, liberal arts school, Winston Churchill College was founded in 1965 in (d) Pontiac, an outgrowth, according to its charter, “of the generosity and enthusiasm of the people of Livingston County.” Unfortunately, six years after its founding, Winston Churchill College closed in 1971.
QUESTION: True or false? More people today are leaving Illinois than any other state in America.
ANSWER: That’s true, if you believe Allied Van Lines statistics. In 2014, the company handled 4,148 moves out of the state and 2,776 moves into Illinois. Pennsylvania was second with a net 1,127 outbound moves, followed by New York (847), Michigan (846) and New Jersey (744). Texas had the biggest gain, with 1,973 net inbound moves in 2014. Next was Florida (1,751), then Arizona (732), South Carolina (501) and Colorado (474).
QUESTION: Another school year at Illinois Wesleyan University ends today with graduation of another class. Also going out this year will be three faculty members who are retiring. Cumulatively, do you know how many years athletics director (and former coach) Dennie Bridges, biology professor Bob Hippensteele and art professor Miles Baird put in at IWU?
ANSWER: Incredibly, the three put in -- all told -- 128 years of service. That includes Bridges, 51 years; Hippensteele, 41 years; and Baird, 36 years.
QUESTION: Which of the following legendary performers have never performed in Bloomington-Normal? Pearl Jam, the Grateful Dead, Kenny Chesney, Michael Jordan, John Mayer, Barry Manilow, Kiss, Muddy Waters, Elton John, Robin Williams, Peter Gabriel, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Prince, Larry Bird, Brad Paisley, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Alice Cooper, Bill Cosby and George Jones.
ANSWER: Since 1974, when Illinois State University’s union began hosting acts, all of those named have performed in B-N — either at Illinois State University’s Union Auditorium (later renamed Braden), downtown’s U.S. Cellular Coliseum or ISU’s Horton Field House.
QUESTION: Morton High School's athletic teams go by the nickname of Potters. Why is that?
ANSWER: Until the 1960s, one of Morton's leading manufacturers was Morton Pottery Co., then known nationwide. It spawned the nickname.
FLICK LITE. Our latest listings, as offered by the readers and your own resident Lite Boy:
Best place to eat on Good Friday
As reads the message on one Twin City Hardee's marquee:
“Fast Food Here.”
Newest crime-pays winner
QUESTION: How much garbage does the average Bloomington garbage truck pick up in an hour?
ANSWER: Incredibly, about four tons of trash an hour, according to city statistics. It takes about four hours of garbage pickup for the average 16-ton truck to need emptying.
Question: In a Chicago Tribune listing of "Places In Our Heart," in which the newspaper’s travel writers picked their 40 "best weekend trips" in the Midwest, what was the No. 1 stop in Illinois?
Answer: The Tribune’s list began with Bloomington-Normal. It said this about us: "Serious artists and university drama students have turned the town into a charming cultural outpost."
Question: True or false? When next in an Illinois prison, you probably should not yell out the word “William.”
Answer: That is true … unless you want everyone to look. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, there are more Williams in Illinois prisons that any other name. As of last count, that was nearly 3,600 of them.
In times of painful cutbacks at almost every turn, humor can be a nice way to slow any tears. And Doug Johnson, executive director of the McLean County Arts Center, curved some smiles last week.
After Congressman Aaron Schock of Peoria stunned the area with announcement of his forthcoming resignation, Johnson thought about it a moment and then good-naturedly, with a deep smirk, posted something on his Facebook page.
Its value rising, he announced he was putting up for auction a personally autographed, 2011 Men’s Health magazine that featured an open-shirted, abdomenally-imbued Schock on the cover.
“Proceeds to support the McLean County Arts Center!” proclaimed Johnson.
Almost instantly, comments began pouring in on the humor and ingenuity in a never-ending quest to fund an arts center today. Then came a few bids.