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Emails for October 2002

Looking for old postcards of El Paso

I collect old postcards (mainly El Paso, Secor, and Gridley),, but I do have a dozen or so of Minonk. I would be glad to trade some or all of these for El Paso postcards or El Paso memorabilia.

I keep my card collection at my office in El Paso at Heartland Bank. My phone number at the bank is 527-4400. If you know of anyone who is interested in trading, give me a call at that number or e-mail me.

George Drake

More information on early prairie

Dave, I enjoyed Barth's recent informative email about the early prairie. There is an excellent story in "Tales From the Trees" by Eileen Hayes Schneider. The following are excerpts from this book and was written by Alvah H. Parks, oldest son of William Alvah Parks. (Compiled July 6, 1929) _________________________________________ (Page 10) In the spring of 1857, Father built a house on the old home farm, Section 16, Clayton Township, which he bought of the school land agent. The family moved there the same spring. The country around was all virgin prairie, and there were herds of deer, packs of wolves, lots of prairie chickens and, last but not least, scores of rattlesnakes. Father's Uncle Hank used to shoot prairie chickens from a window of our house. Father bought several yoke of oxen to break-up the prairie land, but most of them died with black murrain and this was a great loss. It was hard to pay for a lot of dead oxen. However, Father, though financially hard pushed, always paid his debts. If he could not meet payments when due, he got an extension of time or borrowed the money elsewhere to pay. He always kept his credit good. (Pages 11 and 12) Beginning with the year 1857, when we moved to the home farm, I will relate some things that I remember. The country was one vast, level plain of wild prairie grass, full of ponds and sloughs. There were no trees except a few small cottonwoods and a few willows around the sloughs, for the prairie fires - which occurred about once a year - destroyed the trees. At great distances, there and there, was a small house. During the evenings, the air was filled with the music of the prairie - the croaking of millions of frogs in the ponds and sloughs and the howling of prairie wolves. In the morning, the crowing and cooing of the prairie chickens filled the air. If it were not for these prairie musicians - the chicken, the wolves, the frogs - it might have been lonely on the great prairie. Mosquitoes and green-headed flies were in abundance, and these would nearly eat up the horses. __________________________________

Scott and I are lucky enough to live by one of the remaining sections of abandoned Santa Fe railroad left untouched. Well, kind of untouched. The tracks and ties are long gone but along each side is, I would say, one of last bits of natural prairie around. There are many weeds, wild flowers, prairie grasses, wild strawberries and abundant wildlife. A couple years ago, before the ground on the north side was sold, the former farmer wasn't much for mowing ditches and he never mowed that side of the old railroad bed. There was so much growing there. Sunflowers twice as tall as me and all kinds of pretty weeds and wildflowers. There was even a patch of wheat that came up from seed every year. Tall and short prairie grasses. I am ashamed to say I could identify only a few of them. And I am sorry to say it is mowed to gravel level several times each summer, so much so, that most plants are unidentifiable and there are no seeds for next years growth. It is sad because besides being wonderful to look at and listen to, as the sun shines on the flowers and the wind blows through the grass blades, these plants support wild life as food and shelter. Did you know the Monarch Butterfly will only lay its eggs on the Milk Weed plant? And you should have been with me the time I was walking along the old rail path and looking ahead I saw a small brown animal in the distance running toward me. It scared me because I thought it was a dog or coyote. As it got closer and I was trying to decide if I should start running myself, the other way, I realized it was a fawn, apparently flushed from it's hiding place. About that time it saw me and made an abrupt left turn and vanished into the cornfield. In such a fast changing world, it's nice to know there are little patches of the past, whether left there by nature or by people who care. I am sending some pictures of the sunflowers and "weeds" I took a couple years ago along the old Santa Fe before it was all so neatly mowed.

Click here for Ruth Ann's pictures of wildflowers next to her rural property.

Ruth Ann Meierhofer

Parents help pay for cheerleaders

Hi Dave,
In response to Jerry Welch's letter about Fieldcrest cutting costs. I would like to respond to the comment that was made towards the cheerleaders. I have a daughter in football cheerleading this year and my comment is that there has been NO cost to the school when it comes to the cheerleading program this year except for bussing them to and from away football games. I can personally tell you that I have paid around $400.00 for my daughter to be in football cheerleading this year. We have had to pay for her to go to a cheerleading camp put on by NCA here in town, outfits for camp, outfits to cheer in, shoes, sweatshirt, etc. I knew with her being in the program this year that we would have to pay. So pay to play does fit this situation. I do not know if it costs for other athletes to participate in their particular sports I am only talking from our personal experience.

The girls have also worked hard this year and had numerous fundraisers. This included a car wash, bagging groceries and selling Fieldcrest items. It doesn't matter how many girls are out there cheering cause we parents and kids have helped pay for everything that you see.

Jan Hovey

Give taxypayers some choices

Here is another chance for public service.....give the taxpayers of the school district some of the choices that the board is facing in reducing the budget. This will provide the board with some info that they can use to implement savings...the list may be long but the local involvement thru minonk talk would certainly start to determine short and long term values of the tax bill payers. Let the school board and/or administration make up the list of items and allow the voters to add to it one of two of their favorite items of waste.

But be sure to remind folks that only some of our public education problems are caused by lack of money....good management and good teaching and great learnings have been found in many environments that are resource limited.

My career included 5 yrs. in a public school that was resource limited and then 33 yrs. in a variety of training related jobs at Caterpillar in Peoria, East Peoria, Milwaukee and Aurora.

Education is expensive...but so is the price of ignorance....has been said and printed often. Compare the price of one year of public school to the annual cost for one prisoner in our state.

Gerry Schmidt

Editor's note: Gerry's suggestion for a poll will be undertaken by this website after our viewers have a chance to read other responses on this website.

Former Minonkites reunite

Two former Minonkites. Edith Tallyn, Fayetteville, Ark. and Joan Schneider, Sun Lakes, Az. spent a week together at Edith's home...You can believe much chatter went on with life long friendship we have. Since both families left Minonk years ago, we have always kept in touch...Edith, her daughter Laura and Husband Rigo, own a Real Estate company in Fayetteville, and doing very well. Fayetteville is well known for its University and retirement culture After hugs and tears we entered her house,,,coffee pot on tap and the deck of cards on the table ready for a game of "Spite ans Malice" quilting and sewing ...big time...Both of our husbands are deceased. This picture was taken in front of her church..Charm surrounded this country setting where the attendants brought their vegetables and fruits from the gardens to share with others...white sweet corn was on for us..the organist's dog greeted us and sat on the outside step waiting for it's mistress so they could return home. This is what we are all about...Americana is very much alive............Joan Schneider jolies418@webtv.net

Joan Schneider and Edith Tallyn

Enough is enough on school taxes

You hit the nail on the head with your latest editorial about the Fieldcrest referendum. All of the people in this school district work hard for our wages and must live within our budgets. The school district should be no different. It is definitely time for some belt tightening by the school board. My taxes, like everyone�s have almost doubled in the past (8) years. The biggest bite is always the Fieldcrest School district. It�s time for the tax payers of the district to say enough is enough. Now they want a referendum for more!! I know what my vote will be!!


David Stokowski
705 West Second Street

Keep the Principle's job

Hi Dave, I read the comment that Jerry Welch made. He had some good things to say that is for sure. I have worked for a contract cleaning Co. At Dupont. I cleaned the upper staff's offices as well as locker rooms and other places. I talked to the people who worked at Dupont, even the Vice Pres. at that time of Dupont and she told me they used to hire their own people and it was cleaner and better then ( Until I came of course heehee), but the thing was the health Ins. does not have to be carried by the CONTRACTED Agencies. Therefore Dupont saved on benefits for the custodial services. I know that it was cheaper for Dupont in the long run, but I did not stay as I resented the Agency getting a lot of money for my hard work and me not having any Ins. and low pay.

The part about having the Superintendent do both his and the job of Principal. I feel there is too much of that kind of thing going on now in all capacities...while cheaper, it burns out one person to TRY and do 2 jobs combined, then everyone suffers. There is too much quantity and not enough thinking about quality anymore in my book. Who reads my book though besides me?

Wanda Patterson

More suggestions on school budget cuts

In answer to that thought provoking e-mail response to the over staffed cheer leading squad, perhaps the writer could be responsible for making up the "cut" list. He might want to check the band room for extra horns that could be sold. I'll bet there is probably wasted lumber in the wood shop, and God only knows how much electricity is used in the computer lab!

Sign me as just an old ex teacher.

A. Johnson

Fieldcrest needs to cut costs first

I think the English language is playing a trick with the word referendum. In the case of the proposed Fieldcrest School District, it should be referendumb. The US was founded because of over taxation. The government bodies are the only ones that can raise taxes when they need money. When the working family runs out of money, they learn to live within their means. The school needs to look at ways of spending within their means also.

I'm sure someone will say to give me some ideas, so here are only a few.

1. Eliminate the High School principal position and give the Superintendent a small raise to cover both of these positions. $50,000
2. Eliminate half of the cheerleaders. We have 11 football players on the field and 16-cheerleaders??????
3. Look into the busing situation. Could we lease buses cheaper than owning? Could we contract this out cheaper?
4. Could the custodial staff be contracted cheaper? This may save on benefits.

This is just a quick list thought of while typing this letter. I'm sure a committee could come up with more ways to save money for the district. The easy way out is to pass a referendum. Why can't we take a step back and look at ways to avoid this problem?

I know some people are going to say that I have been against the consolidation of Fieldcrest. I am only against the scheming behind the scenes by some people to benefit themselves at the expense of the average taxpayer. The Fieldcrest District has offered some opportunities to some students that they would not have had in separate districts. My concern is that we've been told since Day 1 of Fieldcrest, that the money would get tighter and tighter, but the dollars kept going out like it was going to keep coming.

By the way, YES, I will be against a referendum in the April 2003 election. Let's find some ways to avoid it first.

Jerry A Welch
204 N Walnut Street
Minonk, IL 61760

Old photos from relative of Minonk native

Hi Dave-

My great grandparents came to Minonk in 1885 from County Durham, England. The first photo is of Grandpa William MacIlwrath ready for work in the coal mine in Minonk about 1925 or so. The second photograph is of what I believe is the Sweet Shop in Minonk where my Grandma Jennie MacIlwrath (their daughter) worked prior to her marriage in 1920. She is the dark haired girl on the left. I don�t know anyone else in the picture. The next photo is of my Grandma Jennie (on the left) with three of her friends in downtown Minonk (Schlitz Opera House in background?) taken sometime prior to 1920. I don�t know who the other women are in that photo. The last photo is of my Great Grandma Maria MacIlwrath in her backyard in Minonk with my Aunt Dorothy Shaffer (Jennie�s daughter). The older girl is Lillian Stowkowski, who is another grandchild that grew up in Minonk. I wonder if she is related to the �Blackie� Stowkowski who is in a photo of coal miners in the history section. One other note that may be of interest regarding Minonk history�when the MacIlwraths came to Minonk my great grandma�s sister Hannah Nelson came with them and married Ernest Hewitt. I think he ran a lumberyard in town at one time. Anyway, they also raised their family there. When I was in town I noticed an old building on the main street called Hewitt�s Store and wondered if there might be a connection there (photo attached). One day I�ll have to come back when I can spend more time exploring.

I hope that the above wasn�t more info than you needed!

Again, I have really enjoyed your site! Please feel free to share the photos, maybe someone will recognize a person or something in them.


Steve Tate
Lake Worth, FL

Editor's reply: Unexpected gifts like these photos from Steve are appreciated and greatly add to the interest of this website. Thanks Steve.

Looking for names in Martin family pic

Dave, This is a photo of the Martin family taken in 1920. My father is the child in front of the older lady in the chair, his name is Wilbur Martin Jr. His grandfather was Douglas Martin from Minonk. The four girls in the photo I think are Douglas Martin's daughters, but I don't know as this is the only photo I have, but no names. I know the girls names are Maude, Helen, Dorothy and Elizabeth. If somebody could help identify the people in the picture it would be nice.

Thank you, Jerl Martin
Charles City, IA

Click on picture below to enlarge.

Prairie grass should be preserved

Every kid in town ought to be calling up Eldon Folkerts and begging him to show them the bluestem prairie grass shown in your picture. That grass is a carryover from a period long before they were born. I know there are experiments to re-establish plots of this grass. But if things keep "modernizing" over the next 100 years the way they have over the past 100 years, that grass will probably be gone. The grass would be good for young people to see so they can tell future generations what it was like. Clarence Alvord wrote about The Illinois Country, 1673-1818. The 1670's was the time Marquette and La Salle were exploring in the Illinois area. Alvord wrote: Most of the open prairie was covered with high beard grass, usually interspersed with tall-growing flowers, such as prairie arch, cup plant and compass plant, a number of gaudy sunflowers, several species of osage, and large purple patches of ironweed, often mixed with various thorohwoks, asters and ragweed. Indian plantain, leaf cup, horseweed and luissop were abundant while dragonhead, prairie clover, blazing star -Milkweed, orange lilies and wild roses added to the gorgeous blackeyed Susans, purple coneflowers and bright fur marigolds... In the spring, strawberries bearing abundant scarlet fruits, were scattered far and wide; wild phlox added gay splash of blue and pink, the blue phlox, the Greek valerian and the bluebell were usually found in the more moist areas. Wild garlic was abundant. The blue Iris made a rich spot of color and the unicorn plant and the bend tongue occasionally grew in great patches. For acres at a stretch the summer fields glowed with vivid goldenrods.

I have no idea what most of these plant were ( if anyone does, it would be great to hear their description) but judging from the color descriptions given the prairie must have been a splendor to behold.

When La Salle and his men were entering the prairie they found that the vast prairie of tall grass had been burnt. The Miamis as a buffalo hunting technique set huge fires. La Salle wrote, "the Indians set fire to the grass around the herds except at a few places where they stationed themselves with bows and arrows. The buffalo in trying to avoid the fire, are obligated to pass in front of the Indians, who sometimes killed two hundred in a day."

When looking at your picture the term 'breaking sod' takes on new meaning. The grass in your picture was the sod our fore fathers had to plow under in order to plant their first crops. I would guess a farmer needed an exceptional plow and plenty of them. Thanks for your picture, and to Eldon Folkerts for keeping the bit of prairie history, and to all of those who tamed our prairies.

Barth Weistart

Life is short, loosen up and enjoy it

Dave, I am continually amazed at all the fine stories and responses you get on Minonktalk. I especially admired Barth Weistart well researched story on the Polish Church The tax referundum and school costs are always a problem and will continue, partly because of oldsters (like anyone over 50) remember that school wasn't like today's "pampering" and see young people generally wasting these precious times on frivolity, fashions, stupid music, and romance. Extra curricular activities fit in there somewhere too! When my dad ended his practice, he was making about $5,000 a year. Todays dentists out here make about 25 to 30 times that much. When I graduated college in 1957, Colorado was paying starting teachers with MA's at $2,000. California was paying $4,000! I'm very fortunate that I have good health coverage, but I do worry that when my day comes, they might try to prolong it with extraordinary means . I suppose what I am saying is that life's all too short and people need to loosen up and enjoy it.

Albin Johnson

Response to issues raised in school funding crisis editorial

Dave, I would like to address some of your ideas to cut costs in schools. I would agree with you that since the "education" is the most important reason for schools that the first areas to be cut back should fall in the realm of extra or co-curriculars. However, even the suggestion that we could go back to the days of GAA (yes, I did belong) would bring a lawsuit, and rightfully so because of Title IX. The purpose of athletics is not to bring in revenue to the district -- I would venture a guess that none of them bring in enough to cover the costs. If Fieldcrest is like many districts, athletics seems to be an area that cannot be touched. I would agree that all sports should become intramural.

I work in a district and my children went to another school where there is a pay-to-play policy. It is a flat fee, no matter your financial condition. It doesn't bring in much revenue either. There are also "parking" fees purportedly to repave the parking lot -- it would take about 100 years to raise enough money to do that. I don't expect my child to ride the bench if I am paying for the privilege of being on this team! That was my feeling and it is the feeling of many parents who have paid these fees.

I don't know the sizes of the classes in the Fieldcrest District, but I do know that teaching and dealing with students is not the same today as it was even 20 years ago. Many times aides are hired because of a special education IEP (Individual Education Plan) -- the district has no choice but to provide this service. I also know that I will be teaching a class on computer skills to 20 students where one of the students is legally blind and two of the students have a BD (behavior disorder) label with no one to help me. I will tell you that I am very concerned about how I am going to help all of the students in that class develop their skills when I know that three of the students will be requiring most of my time and attention during the class period of 40 minutes. When I taught language arts, more than once I had students in middle school who had severe reading and writing deficits. For two years I had the opportunity to have an aide in some of my classes, and I believe that with her help we were able to assist those students in becoming more capable readers and writers. Sometimes we feel that because we live in small towns we don't have the problems that larger schools have. That is not the case -- we have neglect, abuse, poverty, hunger, drugs, and all the problems that can be found in the cities. (I live in a town of 900 and work in a town of less than 2000.)

As far as the use of substitute teachers, that is a contractual issue. I know that I have only used one sick day, 3 bereavement days, and 2 personal days in the last 10 years. I have the same number of sick days each year as my mother had when she taught at Minonk Grade School. Teachers are no different than any other employees, some use most of their sick leave days and some don't. Professional development has become a part of renewing teaching certificates in the state of Illinois so there may be teachers attending workshops and training sessions for that reason -- this is not any different than professional training in corporate America. I am not so sure it is for anyone to question if my absence is really necessary as long as I still have days that can be used.

The suggestion of year-round school is certainly a popular one today. First of all, from a personal standpoint, as a mother, I would have hated to have lost all those wonderful days I had with my children when they were out of school for the summer. (I was not employed as a teacher when they were small, I was a homemaker.) Now as a teacher, you are presently paying for 180 days of work, do you intend to pay for more, or are you just going to change the arrangement of the days? Most schools that have gone to year-round have done the second. From the maintenance standpoint, when will the buildings be cleaned and the summer maintenance be done? I think you will find that you will need to hire more personnel in those jobs. You will also increase your bussing costs because you will run the buses more, if you actually increase the number of days. My husband is a school administrator who works eleven months -- there are many administrative jobs that are done during the "vacation" because there are so many fewer interruptions. Will traditional community summer activities like summer baseball be changed so that students are not out late in the evening? I know where I work the schools are not air conditioned -- it would be unbearable to be in the buildings many summer days. I know this because I worked an entire summer year before last for the princely sum of $1500. From an educational stand point, I am not convinced that learning is improved by this rearrangement of the calendar. I think that more time is spent restarting and wrapping-up each quarter.

Unfortunately, the State and the Federal governments frequently make policy that causes great expenditures for the minority of students. I personally feel that the No Child Left Behind policy may be just one more of those things. All the testing that is done in schools has to be paid for by the district. Many times the state will change funding after staff hirings have been completed for the following year -- that costs the district. I would imagine that Fieldcrest is like many rural districts, it is growing older and therefore has fewer students.

I think that the revenue from gambling and the lottery probably would help a great deal if the state hadn't taken a like amount out as it added this funding. It was counterproductive to add funds from gambling only to decrease funding for education that came from the general fund. Part of the loss of revenue has come from decreasing farm assessments at the rate of 10% a year over 3 years for a total of 30%. (I know that this is a touchy subject in a farm community, but it is a reality.) I was living in Minonk the last time this was done by the state -- it created major funding issues then too. I would like to see the state move to another way of taxing for education, but I don't think that is very possible.

Marg (Gardner) Robertson


"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." --Henry Adams

Editor's reply: Thanks for an excellent letter that answered a lot of the questions that I raised in the editorial on the school budget crisis.