Remembering Asbury and North Street

“Ask yourself how old would you be
If you didn’t know the day you were born”

From “Don’t Let the Old Man In” by Toby Keith

By Jim Muir

I want to begin today by asking you to ponder the poignant question raised by country star Toby Keith in his classic song, “Don’t let the old man in.” While you might have a totally different perspective on that powerful lyric, what I take from that line is simple. Are we all expected to act a certain way just because there is a number attached to us that is based on the day we were born?

Asbury and the Dugger sisters (clockwise from bottom left) Susie, Connie, Darby and Nancy.

I heard that song for the first time recently and that single, simple line has caused me to do a lot of thinking and soul-searching. In short, should we act, dress, eat, talk, retire, sleep and interact with others based on “the day you were born.” In short, I believe our age is a number and we’re only as old as we feel! In other words, being a certain age isn’t a doesn’t mean we should be grouchy, irritable or quit work and things we enjoy doing.
That little blast about the past was prompted by a column I wrote last month lamenting the fact that young folks don’t play outside anymore and that 21st Century gizmos and gadgets have sadly taken the place of those wonderful sandlot games of (name the sport) that many of us enjoyed in the days of our youth. Many people reached out to me about that column, all people in my age group, and agreed that with the loss of neighborhood interaction with friends we have lost something very special through the decades. Sadly, I don’t think it’s something that will ever be regained.

I want to continue on that same theme this month. Let me explain!

From the time I was born until I left home at the ripe old age of 18, I lived on North Street in Sesser. There were two locations on that wonderful little street, but North Street was home and still holds countless great memories for me. Here’s a little geography lesson on North Street. If you were to travel north on Route 148 out of Sesser, three blocks from the 4-Way stop is where North Street intersects with the state highway. Even as a kid I always found it interesting that North Street runs east and west?! There’s no wonder I am sometimes confused!

From the time I was born until I was 12 years old my family lived in a small house on North Street, east from Route 148. Then we moved three blocks west to a much nicer and larger house that was one block west of Route 148, but still on North Street. Interestingly, at both locations there was a vacant lot that became a hangout for youngsters from the neighborhood for games of every competition imaginable. If you’re young and reading this and you have every wondered why your parents or grandparents are stubborn and hard-headed, look no further than those highly-spirited and competitive neighborhood games from yester-year where determination, grit, toughness and a will-to-win were honed.

Mr. Asbury sitting on his front steps with Susie Dugger.

My recollection from those days on North Street started me thinking of the many people from that neighborhood and one elderly gentleman also came to mind. Directly across the street from the first house I lived in on North Street was a simple, gray house with a front porch. An elderly man that all the neighborhood kids called “Asbury” lived there alone. I have thought often that I wished I had taken notes or kept a journal during those childhood days so I could recall exact details about Asbury. I just remember him as being a kind, gentle, always-smiling man who loved the kids in the neighborhood. In fact, that vacant lot where we congregated, often more than a dozen kids, belonged to Asbury. And it never failed that when we had one of our epic games of wiffle ball, football or maybe even Red Rover, Asbury would come outside with a bowl of candy, a plate of cookies and a pitcher of lemonade for us. Sadly, I don’t know if parents would allow the interactions we had with Asbury to happen here in 2024. I guess that’s something else we’ve lost along the way.

While the memories of my friends from that wonderful neighborhood – the Dugger sisters (Darby, Nancy, Connie and Susie), Lecil, Terry, Rick and Debbie Witcher, Rick Basso, Jeff Wilkerson, Joe and Shelley Marlo, Roger Jones, Lanny Allen, Kevin and Greg Minor, my brother Billy and many others are warm and vivid in my mind, thoughts of our friend Asbury also provide wonderful recollections about the good old days on North Street.

I recently had a conversation with a longtime friend and stories about Asbury surfaced. I was told that he was buried at Paradise Prairie Cemetery, located on Route 154 in Perry County. On a recent day I decided to try to find his grave and without much effort I was able to locate it. As I stood at his gravesite, I studied the names and dates on the gray, marble monument. The information was scant and provided me with a few answers, but also raised more questions.
Asbury was born in 1877 and died in 1963 at the age of 86, so in those days when he wasn’t acting his age and instead was laughing, joking and making lemonade for youngsters he would have been in his 80s. His wife, Mae, was born in 1865 and died in 1955 at the age of 90, so he was a widower during those days. I also found it interesting that Mae was 12 years old than him, but perhaps the one bit of information I gleaned from the monument was the death of an infant child that was born and died in 1915.

Was that Asbury’s only child that had died? And was that why he loved that rag-tag group of heathens on North Street so much? I suppose those questions will remain unanswered, but as I stood at his monument and pondered things like age, mortality, names and dates chiseled in marble, children playing games on vacant lots and wonderful memories, the one constant thought that kept rolling around in my mind is that everybody should have the privilege and joy once during their lifetime of having a friend like Asbury!

Let me leave you today with a question I began this offering with: “How old would you be if you didn’t know the day you were born?

‘Christmas ended that night …’ – The 72th Anniversary of the Orient 2 mining disaster

(NOTE: This story was originally written in 2001, on the 50th anniversary of Orient 2 mine disaster that claimed the lives of 119 miners. Some of the people interviewed for this story – people who lost loved ones in this horrific mine explosion — have since passed on. Regardless if it’s the 50th anniversary or the 72nd anniversary this tragedy needs to be remembered annually, simply because of the impact it had on Franklin County and all of Southern Illinois. Many new mining laws were implemented following the Orient 2 explosion, laws that subsequently saved the lives of countless miners. JM)

By Jim Muir
Christmas traditionally is a time for wide-eyed children, exchanging gifts and festive family get-togethers. For many, though, it also is a time that serves as a grim reminder of the worst tragedy in the history of Franklin County.

On Friday, Dec. 21, 1951, at about 7:35 p.m. a violent explosion ripped through Orient 2 Mine, located near West Frankfort, claiming the lives of 119 coal miners. The tragedy occurred on the last shift prior to a scheduled Christmas shutdown.  News of the tragedy spread quickly from town to town and hundreds of people converged on the mine to check on loved ones and friends.

Rescue workers are pictured with one of the 119 miners killed on Dec. 21, 1951 in the Orient 2 explosion.

Rescue workers are pictured with one of the 119 miners killed on Dec. 21, 1951 in the Orient 2 explosion.

A basketball game was under way at Central Junior High School in West Frankfort, when the public address announcer asked that Dr. Barnett report to Orient 2 Mine, No. 4 Portal, because “there had been a catastrophe.”  There were about 2,000 people at the game, and nearly half of them left with Dr. Barnett.  News of the tragedy and massive loss of life drew nationwide attention. Both Time Magazine and Life Magazine featured accounts of the explosion and newspapers from throughout the country sent reporters to Franklin County to cover the holiday tragedy. Gov. Adlai Stevenson was at the mine the following day along with volunteers from the Red Cross and Salvation Army.  Those who arrived at the Orient 2 Mine immediately after reports of the explosion surfaced had no way of knowing that they would be a part of history and folklore that would be handed down from family to family for decades to come.

A Christmas  Miracle 

Rescue workers began entering the mine within hours of the explosion, clearing gas and searching for survivors.   What they met, however, was the grim reminder about the perils of mining coal and the force of methane-fed coal mine explosions. Locomotives weighing 10 tons were tossed about, timbers a foot thick were snapped like twigs and railroad ties were torn from beneath the rails. Rescue workers began recovering bodies of the 120 missing men shortly after midnight on Dec. 22.   As the hours passed, and body after body was recovered from the mine, it became apparent that it would take a miracle for anybody to survive the explosion and the gas and smoke that resulted.  In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve — 56 hours after the explosion — that miracle happened.

Benton resident Cecil Sanders was found on top of a “fall” barely clinging to life. Authorities theorized that Sanders, by climbing on top of the rock fall, miraculously found a pocket of air that sustained him until rescue workers arrived.  Sanders told authorities later that he was with a group of five men (the other four died) when they actually heard the explosion. He said the men tried to get out of the mine but were driven back by smoke and gas. Sander said later he had resigned himself to the fact that he was going to die, even scribbling a note to his wife and children on the back of a cough drop box. “May the good Lord bless and keep you, Dear wife and kids,” Sanders wrote. “Meet me in Heaven.”

Sanders, who died only a few years ago, reported in a book, “Our Christmas Disaster,” that rescue workers were amazed that he survived.

“My God, there’s a man alive,” Sanders later recalled were the first words he heard as he slipped in and out of consciousness. “They didn’t seem to think it was true. When they got to me I couldn’t tell who they were because they all had on gas masks. Rescue workers came back in a few minutes with a stretcher, gave me oxygen and carried me out of the mine. There’s no question it was a miracle.”

A Christmas  Never Forgotten  

Rescue workers and funeral directors were faced with a grim task during the 1951 Christmas holiday season.  Something had to be done with the scores of bodies that were brought up from the mine. And funeral homes throughout Franklin County — where 99 of the 119 fatally injured miners lived — would have to conduct multiple funerals; in some instances, six or eight per day.  A temporary morgue was set up at Central Junior High School where row after row of bodies lined the gymnasium floor. Brattice cloth, normally used to direct the flow of air in coal mine entries, covered the bodies.  The usual joyous Christmas season turned into a bleak pilgrimage for families from throughout Southern Illinois as they faced the task of identifying the charred remains of the miners. The last body was removed from the mine on Christmas night, completing the work of the rescue and recovery. In all, 252 men were underground at Orient 2 when the explosion took place — 119 died and 133 miners in unaffected areas escaped unhurt.

‘Christmas ended  that night …’     

Nearly every person in Franklin County was affected, either directly or indirectly, by the disaster. For some of those who lost loved ones in the Orient 2 explosion, the events of that Christmas are just as vivid in 2001 as they were in 1951.   Perhaps no story evolved from the tragedy that was more poignant than that of Geneva (Hines) Smith, the 26-year-old mother of two small children, who lost her husband, Robert “Rink” Hines in the explosion.  Smith, who later remarried, still brushes away a tear when she recalls the last words of her young husband before he left for work on that fateful Friday afternoon.

“He held our daughter Joann, she was 3 months old, and he put his face against hers and he said, ‘she looks just like me … doesn’t she?” Smith recalled. “Only a few hours later his sister came to the door and said there had been an explosion … and then we learned later that he’d been killed. The last thing I remember was how happy he was holding his daughter.”

Smith said a cruel irony involving the funeral also played out after her husband’s death.

“There was so many funerals that they had them early in the morning and all day until in the evening,” Smith remembered. “The only time we could have his funeral was at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. That was our fifth wedding anniversary and we got married at 8 p.m. … I’ll never forget that.”

Lyle Eubanks, of Mulkeytown, remembers distinctly his last conversation with his father Clarence, prior to the elder Eubank’s departure for work.

“He walked into the kitchen and got his bucket and then walked back into the living room and sat down on the couch,” Eubanks said. “He talked about it being the last shift prior to the Christmas shutdown and said if he didn’t need the money so bad he wouldn’t go to work that night — that’s the last time I talked to him.”

Eubanks said he identified his father’s body at the morgue.

“There was just row after row of bodies and they were covered with brattice cloth,” he recalled. “You just can’t imagine how horrible of a scene it was. I’ll never, ever forget what that looked like.”

Eubanks said the holiday season for his family and all of Franklin County came to an abrupt halt on Dec. 21, 1951.

“People took down their Christmas trees and outside ornaments after the explosion. It was almost like they didn’t want to be reminded that it was Christmas. Someone came to our house and took the tree, ornaments and all, and put it out behind a building in back of our house,” Eubanks said. ” Christmas in 1951, well, … Christmas ended that night.”


‘It affected everybody …’

By Jim Muir
WEST FRANKFORT — Fifty years ago, Jim Stewart was a 25-year-old coal miner working at the Orient 1 Mine near Orient. His father, Silas, was working in the nearby Orient 2 Mine.  On Dec. 21, 1951, just past 7:30 in the evening, while both were at work, an explosion of methane gas tore through Orient 2 Mine and took the lives of 119 coal miners. Silas Stewart was among the victims.

The elder Stewart was working on the last shift before a scheduled Christmas shutdown.

“I didn’t know about it until I had finished my shift,” Stewart said. “It didn’t matter who you talked to, they had either lost a relative, a neighbor or a friend. It affected everybody.”

In the wake of the tragedy, Stewart remembers the generosity of total strangers.

“Funds were established for the victims and their families and contributions poured in from across the United States. Those were pretty hard times anyway and there was just a great outpouring of help,” he said.

And Stewart remembers the despair of that Christmas.

“It was just a terrible, terrible time,” he said. “I remember that some of the funerals couldn’t be held because there wasn’t enough caskets for all the victims.

“My father was buried on Christmas Day, so there’s never been a Christmas go by that you don’t relive that.”

Jack Bigham of West City was just completing his first year of employment at Orient 2 and was underground when the explosion occurred.

“I was in the 15th East section of the mine working with Roland Black. We hadn’t been in there very long and the power went off, so I called out to see what was wrong,” Bigham said. “They wouldn’t tell us exactly what was wrong, they just told us to walk to the old bottom. I remember when we got to the bottom the power was still off and we had to walk the stairs out. We didn’t find out what was wrong until we got on top.”

Bigham, who is now retired after a 38-year career as a coal miner, went back to work at Orient 2 after it reopened and worked an additional eight years at the mine. He said it was difficult to go back.

“I think about it quite often — of course, even more at this time of the year when it’s near the anniversary,” Bigham said. “I know that I was just very lucky to be in another section of the mine that night.”

Curt Gunter, 57, of Benton, a 25-year veteran of the Southern Illinois coal industry, was 7 years old when his father, Harry “Tater” Gunter, was killed.

“There are things about it that are hazy, like I don’t remember my dad’s funeral at all,” Gunter said. “But the thing that stands out in my mind the most is that, looking back through the eyes of a boy, it seemed like there was a big, black cloud just hanging over everything because so many people were involved. When you grow up with a memory like that at Christmas, well, you don’t ever forget it.”

By Jim Muir

UMWA President John L. Lewis was on the scene at Orient 2 the day after the explosion and the legendary union boss went underground at the ill- fated mine while rescue operations were still under way.

Lewis, known for his no-nonsense approach with coal operators and his untiring devotion to improve conditions for union miners, was visibly shaken when he left the mine. He wasted little time leveling an attack on mining laws that he said needed to be revised.

UMWA president John L. Lewis is pictured leaving the Orient 2 Mine the day after a massive explosion killed 119 miners.[/caption]UMWA president John L. Lewis is pictured leaving the Orient 2 Mine the day after a massive explosion killed 119 miners.” width=”300″ height=”432″ /> UMWA president John L. Lewis is pictured leaving the Orient 2 Mine the day after a massive explosion killed 119 miners.[/caption]

“Necessary legislative steps would prevent these recurring horrors,” Lewis said. “They are totally unnecessary and can be prevented. Unless all mines are forced to comply with the safety codes of the Federal Bureau of Mines, the mining industry will continue to be a mortician’s paradise.”

Exactly two months later, on Feb. 21, 1952, Lewis testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Mine Safety, and once again used the Orient 2 explosion as an example that mining laws must be improved.

Lewis said in part: “On Dec. 21, 1951, at the Orient 2 Mine, 119 men were killed. Their average age was 40.9 years old, the youngest was 19 and the oldest was 64. Aside from the human values that were destroyed in this explosion, the community and the state suffered a monetary loss in the contribution that those men would have made had they been permitted to live; or if their lives had been safeguarded; or if one coal company had carried out the provisions of the existing federal code of safety, promulgated by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. That is all, in the judgment of experienced mining men, that would have been necessary to have saved the lives of those 119 men and avoided the disruption of the lives of 175 children growing up to manhood and womanhood.”

Lewis didn’t mince words when he spoke before Congress offering a stinging rebuke about mining laws and practices.

“The Orient explosion was preventable, preventable in the judgment of the U.S. Bureau of Mines, as testified here by its able director. The Orient explosion was preventable in the judgment of every man in the industry that has knowledge of sound mining practices. So, the record runs on, explosion after explosion through the years. Management was at fault in the West Frankfort explosion. It failed to take proper precautions in the face of abnormal conditions that intensified the hazard. Management didn’t take those steps. As a matter of fact, I think it is conceded by those qualified to speak on the subject that every mine explosion and disaster we’ve had in our country since 1940 would have been prevented if the existing code of safety had been enforced.”

The legendary union boss concluded his comments with a powerful and graphic description of what took place in Franklin County in the aftermath of the explosion.

“And the mining industry continues to be a mortician’s paradise. I just watched 119 funerals in two days in Franklin County – 119 funerals in two days! Can you imagine anything more heart-rendering, more soul- stirring? 119 funerals in that little county in two days!  They went to work, the last shift before Christmas … and many of them were brought home to their loved ones in rubber sacks – rubber sacks! Because they were mangled, and shattered and blown apart and cooked with methane gas, until they no longer resembled human beings. And the best the mortician could do was put them in rubber sacks with a zipper. And then, for a Christmas present in Franklin County, 119 families could look at rubber sacks in lieu of their loved ones.”




Illinois’ migrant health care subsidies projected to be $300 million over budget

(The Center Square) – Illinois will pause a program intended to provide taxpayer subsidized health care to the influx of non-citizen arrivals. The program is already up to $831.6 million in projected taxpayer costs.

Here’s a link to the story.

Lives changed after ‘chance’ parking lot meeting

I read the obituary and then I read it a second time more slowly. The name of the deceased was Eugene Thomas Moroni and as is always the case the obit told a brief chronological story about his life.

After reading the obit, paying particular attention about Moroni’s long history as senior vice president with Old Ben Coal Company, I laid the paper aside and thought about the countless times I’d heard his name mentioned. You see, as a kid growing up in a very middle-class, blue-collar family the name ‘Gene Moroni’ was revered and almost legendary around my house.

Let me explain.

As Southern Illinois residents are aware, coal mining has always been a cyclical industry, which means working as a coal miner has always been a feast-or-famine occupation.

My dad began his mining career in the late 1940s and in those ‘famine’ days tried to earn a living working two and three days a week at mines in Buckner, Coello and Valier. In 1956 Old Ben Coal Company started construction on Mine 21, located east of Sesser, and many miners believed a ‘feast’ era was about to begin.

The new multi-million dollar mine began hoisting coal in January 1960 and my dad was one of hundreds desperately trying to land a job there. I can recall many times sitting in the backseat of an old car at the Old Ben office on West Main Street where Benton City Hall was previously located, while my dad waited in the lobby to try and talk to somebody about getting a job.

After numerous failed attempts my dad came up with a plan that proves necessity truly is the mother of invention. Realizing that the Old Ben officials he was hoping to see were leaving the building at day’s end through another exit, my dad moved his job-seeking vigil to a parking lot at the rear of the building. I’ve heard him recall the story countless times.

The first person my dad encountered in the parking lot that day was Gene Moroni and he approached the vice president of Old Ben Coal and, point-blank, asked him for a job.

Moroni’s answer was probably the standard line he used on the throngs of men seeking his help.

“Do you have an application on file,” Moroni asked my dad.

My dad’s answer was one of quickest-thinking lines I’ve heard.

“Yes, I have an application on file … but I don’t need an application on file, I have a family to take care of … I need a job,” my dad told him.

As I write this, in my mind’s eye I can literally see the exchange that took place that spring day in 1960 between a successful mining executive and a man looking for a job to provide for his wife and four children.

I can let my mind wander and imagine that maybe Moroni looked my dad straight in the eye and tried to get a read on him or maybe he even considered my dad’s size – he was 42 years old and a big strapping man in those days. I’m more prone to believe that Moroni looked at my dad’s desire and his heart and realized that a man who would spend the afternoon standing in a parking lot trying to find somebody … anybody … to talk with about a job would surely make a good employee.

“Call my secretary in the morning and have her schedule you for a physical,” Moroni told him. “I’m going to give you a job.”

The significance of that meeting might not have been apparent to either man that afternoon, but it marked a turning point in my dad’s life and a turning point for his family. Mine 21 was called the ‘golden hole’ by miners and proved to be the best-ever Old Ben mine. My dad went from working two or three days a week to working six and seven days per week and everything he attained materially in life came after that meeting with Moroni.

Perhaps it was his attempt to pay Moroni back for giving him a job or maybe it was something in his make up – maybe it was a combination of both — but my dad would not miss a shift of work. He told Moroni he needed a job that day in 1960 and then for 25 years he went to work every day — regardless.

It’s my opinion that Old Ben Coal and my dad both benefited greatly because of Moroni’s decision that day.

Obituaries are adequate and purposeful when describing the highlights of a person’s life but they fail to reveal the real fabric of that person.

Today I would like to add a footnote to Gene Moroni’s obituary.

Along with the relevant facts that were listed Moroni should also be remembered as a man that helped shape and define the Southern Illinois coal industry, a good man that kept his word, a man of character and a person that undoubtedly possessed an uncanny knack for ‘sizing-up’ a man.

And most importantly it should be remembered that Moroni was admired by many working coal miners – particularly one he met by chance in a parking lot 45 years ago.

Scared Straight: The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist

This week will mark the 67th anniversary of the Sesser Homecoming Rend Lake Days. Coinciding with that event will also be the 58th anniversary of “The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist.”

As a kid growing up in Sesser the annual homecoming that was held in the city park in the third week of June, was always the highlight of the summer. My main goal through the months of April, May and early June was to save as much money as I could mowing yards (or whatever I could do to make a buck) so I’d have a pocket full of cash when the James Jackson Shows and Rides rolled into town.

Actually, back then a ‘pocket full of cash’ might have amounted to $15 or $20 but in those days it was a windfall. And knowing my enthusiasm my mom would always hand me three or four Eagle Stamp books a few days before the Homecoming – books that she know doubt had been saving for weeks. I would happily go redeem them – they were worth $1.50 apiece – and add the proceeds to my stash.

Also, every year when the ‘Carnies’ rolled into town I would head to the Sesser City Park on my trusty Schwinn Stingray bicycle where I was joined by an assortment of other knuckleheads. There, we would spend the entire day watching the workers assemble the assortment of rides while counting the minutes until the homecoming became alive with excitement.

One year, when I was 11 years old, we were at the park and we were all straddling our bicycles very near one of the small booths where ride tickets are sold. Noticing that no one was around one of my friends reached into the booth and grabbed an entire roll of carnival ride tickets. Looking back, there must have been 5,000 tickets on that roll.

As he headed out of the park with the stash shoved up under his shirt, for a reason to this day that I don’t understand, I tagged right along behind him. Much like the cowboys in the movies who rob a bank and then head to a safe house to divide the loot, we decided to ride our bikes to Sesser Lake, located a couple of miles southeast of town, to divvy up the cache of yellow ride tickets. To say that I had visions of endless Ferris wheel and tilt-a-whirl rides on my mind would have been an understatement. As a carnival junkie I had just hit the mother-lode.

We realized quickly that we had far more tickets than we could use so we played like Robin Hood – steal from the rich and give to the poor — and began dispersing yellow ride tickets all over town. Soon the word spread in the kid community throughout Sesser and we had guys looking for us hoping to ‘score’ some of the hot (in more ways than one) tickets.

Everything was going along without a hitch until the day that the homecoming was scheduled to start. I headed to town that morning and was soon met by my accomplice who was frantic and talking a mile a minute. During times in the conversation when he was coherent he related that he overheard his parents talking about some ‘stolen ride tickets.’ He said the police had been notified and that the color of ride tickets had been changed to blue. According to his story, anybody with a yellow ticket would be arrested.

As I listened to him talk, and my 11-year-old mind surmised the situation, I realized that this would be my last day of freedom. I was certain that I would be sent to prison and celled up with a guy with tattoos, body odor and no teeth. Life as I knew it and enjoyed it would be over.

Actually, the thought of being arrested, sent to prison and branded as a thief paled in comparison to what I knew would happen if my dad found out. The thought of the police and sharing a cell with Bubba was one thing, but the thought of Bill Muir planting a boot in the seat of my pants was something else. For those of you who consider that child abuse, my dad would quickly tell you it was the most successful way he found to deal with a heathen child.

After a few minutes of remorse followed quickly by panic we decided that we still had time to try and round up the stolen tickets. We must have ridden our bikes 50 miles that day trying to recover those blasted yellow tickets and were successful finding everybody but one person. Only minutes before the rides were scheduled to start we found out that the one person we were looking for was already at the homecoming, so we made a frantic run for the park. We found him happily standing in line at the Ferris wheel with a yellow ticket clinched in his hand. We managed to get to him before he got to the ticket-taker, and in the process spared ourselves a lengthy prison sentence.

I plan to attend the Sesser Homecoming this weekend and enjoy one of those delicious barbeques and some roasted corn. And in the highly unlikely event that I decide to venture on one of the many carnival rides, you can be certain that I will gladly pay for the ticket because I still vividly recall that harrowing June day 58 years ago when “The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist” scared me straight and quickly ended my life of crime.

Bud Light sales continue to plummet after transgender marketing controversy

ST. LOUIS — Sales of Bud Light have been plunging since the company enlisted the help of transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in a marketing campaign a month ago.

Here’s the link to the story at St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Illinois lawmakers react to ‘ComEd Four’ convictions and actions that led to them: ‘Shockingly gluttonous and unhealthy to democracy’

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday were quick to condemn the actions of the “ComEd Four” defendants, who were found guilty of charges they participated in a scheme to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in exchange for favorable legislation.

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

Defendants found guilty on all counts in ‘ComEd Four’ trial

In a sweeping verdict sure to reverberate in Illinois power circles, a federal jury on Tuesday convicted the “ComEd Four” defendants on all charges related to a conspiracy to bribe ex-Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to win his support for the utility’s legislative agenda in Springfield.

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

Tapes show Madigan’s ‘assignments’ carried out by McClain in corruption case

(The Center Square) – The so-called ComEd Four trial continues Monday with more phone-recorded evidence expected to show the inner workings of what federal prosecutors call “Madigan Enterprise.”

Here’s a link to the story.

“Night to Shine” — A celebration of God’s love for participants and volunteers

By Jim Muir

Beaming smiles, off-the-charts excitement, a few tears of joy and a heaping-helping of love were proudly on display Friday night when Immanuel Baptist Church, in Benton, hosted the annual “Night to Shine” event.

In 2014, the Tim Tebow Foundation launched “Night to Shine” – a complimentary event for people with special needs hosted by local churches around the world. The vision was simple…the foundation would work with churches around the country to provide an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love for people with special needs, ages 14 and older. The Night to Shine event at Immanuel on Friday night was one of more than 500 such events held around the world on February 10.

Ryan Mulvaney, who serves as youth pastor at Immanuel said the intricate planning and ironing out of every single detail for the well-organized annual event has gone on for weeks and included more than 200 special needs individuals and an additional 150 volunteers. From the smiles of all attending, it was virtually impossible to determine who was enjoying the event more – those with special needs or the caring volunteers who were there with a singular purpose — to make the night perfect.

The event is designed so that participants are given a warm welcome when they arrive, and then they are ushered to several stations set up throughout the church where they can receive a shoeshine, boutonnières and corsages, makeup and lip gloss and even get their hair fixed if they want. Once they are all “spruced-up” and “spiffed-up” each special participant is escorted to the south side of the large Immanuel Church complex where waiting limousines drive them around the church to the north side of the building where a red carpet entrance awaits.

At the entrance to the red carpet, participants walk through a large floor-to-ceiling star and are then introduced individually to a large crowd of volunteers who are lining the walkway ready to cheer-on, high-five and fist-bump the guests of honor as they make their special entrance.

From there a meal (or snacks) is provided, followed by karaoke and then the main event, a dance where each participant is given a crown or a tiara. In a single sentence, Night to Shine is a celebration of God’s love where everybody truly is a King or Queen!

Following is a pictorial start-to-finish of the remarkable night of activity at Immanuel Baptist Church.

Immanuel Youth Pastor Ryan Mulvaney (on riser) goes over final details with the more than 150 volunteers moments prior to the start of “Night to Shine.”

Kaden Lingafelder, of Carmi, IL, was the first one in the door at Night to Shine. Kaden attends Brownsville School, a special needs facility. He attended with his grandmother, Patty Hodgson.

Immanuel youth pastor Ryan Mulvaney, points to a map showing the various stations where participants and volunteers could navigate throughout the church complex.

Don Cruz, right, of Benton and a member at Immanuel, was busy shining shoes throughout the evening. Here is putting the finishing touches on a shoeshine for Hasten Vanhorn, of West Frankfort, who was attending his first Night to Shine.

Kinzi Loyd was all smiles and pretty in pink as she waited with her chaperone, Terra Clements (directly behind her) for the event to get started.

Mauretta Holman, from Herrin’s Our Directions, assisted living facility, is not certain she likes the corage on her wrist. The corsage/boutonniere station was a busy place throughout the evening.

Stephanie Dalton, (right) was busy throughout the evening. She is pictured here applying lip gloss for Sylvia Collins, from Our Directions, assisted living in Herrin.

Volunteer Shay Richey, left, is pictured putting the finishing touches on a “new-do” for Amelia Fox, of Our Directions, assisted living in Herrin.

After making their way through the various stations, participants are given a limousine ride around the building in preparation for the red carpet entrance.

While enthusiasm and excitement was in the air throughout Immanuel Church, the red carpet entrance, where each participant is recognized and introduced to loud cheers, high-fives and fist-bumping, provided the exclamation point on the evening!

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News