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Testimonials

A Long-Range Plan to Brand the First Lincoln Namesake City as the Second City of Abraham Lincoln Statues

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration in Lincoln, Illinois

1.
Abraham Lincoln and the Historic Postville Courthouse,
including a William Maxwell connection to the Postville Courthouse

2.
About Henry Ford and the Postville Courthouse, the Story of the Postville Courthouse Replica,
Tantivy, & the Postville Park Neighborhood in the
Route 66 Era


3.

The Rise of Abraham Lincoln and His History and Heritage in His First Namesake Town,
also the founding of Lincoln College, the plot to steal Lincoln's body, and memories of Lincoln College and the Rustic Tavern-Inn

4. 
Introduction to the Social & Economic History of Lincoln, Illinois,
including poetry by William Childress & commentary by Federal Judge Bob Goebel & Illinois Appellate Court Judge Jim Knecht

5.
"Social Consciousness in William Maxwell's Writings Based on Lincoln, Illinois" (an article published in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, winter 2005-06
)

5.a.
Peeking Behind the Wizard's Screen: William Maxwell's Literary Art as Revealed by a Study of the Black Characters in Billie Dyer and Other Stories

6.
Introduction to the Railroad & Route 66 Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois

7.
The Living Railroad Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois: on Track as a Symbol of the "Usable Past"


8.

Route 66 Overview Map of Lincoln with 42 Sites, Descriptions, & Photos

9.
The Hensons of Business Route 66

10.
The Wilsons of Business
Route 66
,
including the Wilson Grocery & Shell Station

11.
Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial Park
(former Chautauqua site),
the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites

12.
Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Salt Creek & Cemetery Hill,
including
the highway bridges, GM&O bridge, Madigan State Park, the old dam (with photos & Leigh's memoir of "shooting the rapids" over the old dam), & the Ernie Edwards' Pig-Hip Restaurant Museum in Broadwell

13.
The Historic Logan County Courthouse, Past & Present


14.
Route 66 Map with 51 Sites in the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District,
including locations of historical markers
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

15.
Vintage Scenes of the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District

16.
The Foley House:  A Monument to Civic Leadership
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

17.
Agriculture in
the Route 66 Era


18.
Arts & Entertainment Heritage,
including the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club of the 1950s

19.
Business Heritage

20.
Cars, Trucks & Gas Stations of the Route 66 Era

21.
Churches,
including the hometown churches of Author William Maxwell & Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

22.
Factories, Past and Present

23.
Food Stores of
the Route 66 Era


24.
Government

25.
Hospitals, Past and Present

26.
Hotels & Restaurants of the Railroad & Route 66 Eras


27.
Lincoln Developmental Center
(Lincoln State School & Colony in the Route 66 era), plus
debunking the myth of Lincoln, Illinois, choosing the Asylum over the University of Illinois

28
.
Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities


29.

Museums & Parks, including the Lincoln College Museum and its Abraham Lincoln Collection, plus the Heritage-in-Flight Museum

30.
Neighborhoods
with Distinction

31.
News Media in the Route 66 Era

32.
The Odd Fellows' Children's Home

33.
Schools

34.
Memories of the 1900 Lincoln Community High School,
including Fred Blanford's dramatic account of the lost marble fountain of youth

35.
A Tribute to the Historians and Advocates of Lincoln, Illinois

36.
Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era

37.
The Historic 1953 Centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois

38.
The Festive 2003 Sesqui-centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois,
including photos of LCHS Class of 1960 dignitaries & the Blanfords

39.
Why Did the State Police Raid Lincoln, Illinois, on October 11, 1950?

40.
The Gambling Raids in Lincoln and Logan County, Illinois,
During the Late Route 66 Era (1950-1960)

_______

Pages in this section tell about Leigh Henson's Lincoln years, moving away, revisits, and career:

About Lincoln, Illinois;
This Web Site; & Me

A Tribute to Lincolnite Edward Darold Henson: World War II U.S. Army Veteran of the Battles for Normandy and the Hedgerows; Brittany and Brest; and the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

For Remembrance, Understanding, & Fun: Lincoln Community High School Mid-20th-Century Alums' Internet Community
(a Web site and email exchange devoted to collaborative memoir and the sharing of photos related to Lincoln, Illinois)

Leigh Henson's Pilgrimage to Lincoln, Illinois, on
July 12, 2001

Leigh Henson's Review of Dr. Burkhardt's William Maxwell Biography

Leigh Henson's Review of Ernie Edwards' biography, Pig-Hips on Route 66, by William Kaszynski

Leigh Henson's Review of Jan Schumacher's Glimpses of Lincoln, Illinois

Teach Local Authors: Considering the Literature of Lincoln, Illinois

Web Site About
Leigh Henson's Professional Life

__________

Pages in this section are about the writing, memorabilia, and Web sites of other Lincolnites:

A Tribute to Bill and Phyllis Stigall:
Exemplary Faculty of Lincoln College at Mid-Twentieth Century

A Tribute to the Krotzes of Lincoln, Illinois

A Tribute to Robert Wilson (LCHS '46): Author of Young in Illinois, Movies Editor of December Magazine, Friend and Colleague of December Press Publisher Curt Johnson, and Correspondent with William Maxwell

Brad Dye (LCHS '60): His Lincoln, Illinois, Web Site,
including photos of many churches

Dave Armbrust's Memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois

J. Richard
(JR) Fikuart
(LCHS '65):
T
he Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, including their connections to the William Maxwell family and three generations of family fun at Lincoln Lakes

Jerry Gibson (LCHS '60): Lincoln, Illinois, Memoirs & Other Stories

Dave Johnson (LCHS '56): His Web Site for the Lincoln Community High School Class of 1956

Sportswriter David Kindred: Memoir of His Grandmother Lena & Her West Side Tavern on Sangamon Street in the Route 66 Era

Judge Jim Knecht
(LCHS '62): Memoir and Short Story, "Other People's Money," Set in Hickey's Billiards on Chicago Street in the Route 66 Era

William A. "Bill" Krueger (LCHS '52): Information for His Books About Murders in Lincoln

Norm Schroeder (LCHS '60): Short Stories

Stan Stringer Writes About His Family, Mark Holland, and Lincoln, Illinois

Thomas Walsh: Anecdotes Relating to This Legendary Attorney from Lincoln by Attorney Fred Blanford & Judge Jim Knecht

Leon Zeter (LCHS '53): His Web Site for the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1953
,
including announcements of LCHS class reunions

(Post yours there.)
__________

 


Highway Sign of
the Times:
1926-1960

The Route 66
Association of Illinois

The Illinois State Historical Society

Illinois Tourism Site:
Enjoy Illinois

 

 

    Email a link to this page to someone who might be interested.  Internet Explorer is the only browser that shows this page the way it was designed.  Your computer's settings may alter the display.

April 24, 2004: Awarded "Best Web Site of the Year" by the Illinois State Historical Society "superior achievement: serves as a model for the profession and reaches a greater public"
 

Marquee Lights of the Lincoln Theater, est. 1923, Lincoln, Illinois

 
  You can go home again. Email Leigh Henson at dlhenson@missouristate.edu.
 

The Honorable James A. "Jim" Knecht:
 Memoir and Short Story Set in Lincoln, Illinois

 

Introduction

     Jim Knecht grew up literally along side the railroad tracks in downtown Lincoln, Illinois; and I grew up in south Podunk (on the west side of Lincoln)--the wrong side of the tracks. Our paths first crossed at Dial's Texaco Gas Station at Fifth and Union Streets during our high school years. Harry Dial, a former Illinois State Policeman, kindly allowed many teen guys to gather in his station, and dozens of us took advantage of this hospitality. Dial's was on the west edge of downtown Lincoln, a short walk for Jim and a mile-long walk for me--my family lived two blocks north of the historic Postville Courthouse site.

     Jim and I graduated from Lincoln Community High School (I in 1960, Jim in 1962) and from Illinois State University. We not only survived growing up in somewhat challenging neighborhoods, but also appreciate their respective positive influences.

     Something on this page may prompt your desire to reach Jim Knecht. Respond to him at j.knecht@verizon.net.

     Jim Knecht's childhood home was in the heart of historic downtown Lincoln, where he lived with his mother in a second-story apartment above a tavern on Sangamon Street. Paralleling Sangamon Street and just yards across the street to the east were the dual tracks of the GM&O Railroad. These tracks were along the alignment of the Alton & Chicago, which was the original railroad company that brought about the founding of Lincoln, Illinois. Farther east on the other side of the railroad tracks was Elm Park: it was established on land that the founding fathers had donated to the community. Beyond Elm Park to the east of the railroad tracks and parallel with them (and thus with Sangamon Street) was Chicago Street, which also had many old storefronts. As Jim grew up, he became very familiar with all of downtown Lincoln, as reflected in his writing quoted on this page with his permission. 

     In response to an email discussion about social circles in Lincoln, Illinois, involving several LCHS alums, Jim comments: "Given my time spent in an apartment over a tavern in a single-parent family on Sangamon Street and years of playing in Elm Park and on the railroad tracks and in downtown alleys and down both Sangamon and Chicago Streets, I have a number of observations about social strata, the class system and Lincoln -- but all by way of what I believed was simply interesting commentary on the human condition" (Jim Knecht in email to Leigh Henson, 8-22-03).

    Below, I first present Route-66-era photos of Sangamon Street along with some of Jim's recollections of the businesses and people associated with that time and place. Then, I present Jim's account of how Lincoln, Illinois, influenced his decision to pursue a legal/judicial career, and that is followed with background for Jim's short story titled "Other People's Money," including a photo of Jim and friends at a pool table and a photo of the building that is the story's setting--Hickey's Billiards on Chicago Street in Lincoln. Next is the engaging story itself, followed with information about another pool hall in old downtown Lincoln, including a Fred Blanford photo of the building on Pulaski Street that housed it. This page concludes with information about Jim's professional life and about alumni awards he has received from Illinois State University. I include an award-acceptance speech in which he pays grateful tribute to his family.
 

Sangamon Street of the Route 66 Era (now in the Logan County Courthouse Historic District)

     Jim describes the Sangamon Street of his childhood as "my own concrete playground": 

     "Gehlbach Implement was on the [nw] corner of Sangamon and Pulaski Streets [see photo below]--a Sinclair gas station was on the corner of Sangamon and Broadway--so, that was my block--although I ventured north into the Dehner Block to play with or see Judy Malerich at Malerich Cleaners and south to Lyons Grocery--which stayed open later than Eckert's--I think Lyons' is where the tavern now is in that block [Old Joe's].

     Past Lyons' to the south just before Alexander Lumber was Bertsche's--a combination tire store, junk dealership, pawn shop--Bertsche was a small, dark elfin man--like a child's vision of a junk-store gypsy--glittering eyes, quick speech, eccentric--he cashed payroll checks for a fee--and always kept large amounts of cash hidden in various parts of the store under used car parts. He was the victim of several strong-armed robberies and burglaries during my childhood.

     Lyons Grocery was also run by two brothers--Markie and John Lyons. It seemed to cater more to rural customers who came to town in the early evening, after chores.

     And of course farther south on Sangamon was Bee's Ice Cream Parlor--they also fried a steak-n-shake-style hamburger. Bonnie Keys and I ran to Bee's many a Friday night as children to pick up a bag  of burgers for my mother and aunt, her parents and a family friend, Pauline Stoltz, who played cut-throat pinochle (not partners) for money in my mother's apartment every 4th Friday--the game moved from place to place" (from Jim's handwritten note to Leigh, November 10, 2003).

1. Bee's Ice Cream Parlor at the Southwest Corner of
Sangamon and Clinton Streets in Lincoln, Illinois

(Undated photo from Paul Gleason's Lincoln: A Pictorial History, p. 61, and
reproduced here with permission from the G. Bradley Publishing Company of St. Louis)

     Several additional photos below on this page show other buildings in Jim's neighborhood. Unless otherwise noted, these photos were taken in the 1960s and are compliments of Lincolnite D.D. Welch. These photos were electronically transmitted to Leigh by Norm Schroeder (LCHS Class of 1960) and Lincoln Attorney Fred Blanford (LCHS Class of 1959). 

     The first six photos below show the 100 block of Sangamon Street, also known as "Dutch Row" because of the many shopkeepers of German descent who owned businesses on this street from its origin and well into the twentieth century. I have sequenced the photos below to show the storefronts in this block from left to right (south end to north end of block). 

2. The Pluth Building in the Mid 1960s

     Jim Knecht and his mother lived in the second-story Pluth Apartments above the West Side Tavern (at left with Schlitz signs) and the Ed Pluth Tin Shop (in the above photo at right of tavern with signs in window). 

     The West Side Tavern was operated by Lena and Tommy Forehand. Jim Knecht indicates they lived somewhere on Sixth or Seventh Street. My dad, Darold Henson, tells me that the Forehands ran a tight ship.

     Jim also observes: "Another note on Lena Forehand's tavern--she was Dave Kindred's grandmother, and he spent every summer with her from the time he was 9 to age 15 because he played baseball and Atlanta--where he lived--had no Pony League or Junior baseball. I knew him and his sister and cousin-- Merle Helton. He went on to Wesleyan and then became a sportswriter for the Louisville paper, the Washington Post, Atlanta Constitution, Sporting News, etc., and is one of the most respected writers in those circles today. . . .  He wrote an article that was carried nationally when his grandmother died, and he wrote about the tavern. 

     After he was gone--he was 3 or 4 years older than I--, I would sometimes roll my shot put on the floor of the apartment and the pie-eyed drinkers below (Lena's term) believed there was thunder and were shocked to see the sun brightly shining on a late summer afternoon as they peered out the tavern door" (email message from Jim to Leigh, 9-9-2003).

     Note:  Judge Knecht sent me a copy of the memoir about Lena Forehand and the West Side Tavern written by her grandson, acclaimed sportswriter David Kindred. In January, 2004, in a phone conversation I had with David, he gave me permission to include that memoir in this Web site. The memoir was originally published in the Washington Post and then in the Bloomington, IL, Pantagraph and other papers. The memoir and a photo of the Tavern appear at http://www.geocities.com/findinglincolnillinois/contributors/davidkindred.html.

*  *  *  *  *

     The Pluth Tin Shop was one of Lincoln's long-time businesses. A1950 Lincoln Evening Courier ad for Pluth's said it was established in 1920. In 1950, Pluth's business included air conditioning, sheet metal work, furnace cleaning and repair, and roofing and guttering. Brands of equipment sold were XXth Century, Winkler, and Sunbeam. In 1950, Pluth's had 8 employees with a total of 114 years of experience (Courier, 1-28-1950, p. 8).

     Jim Knecht writes that the "Pluth Tin Shop made beautiful tin ceilings with designs embossed or pressed into the surface of the tin--those ceilings were popular in the first half of the 20th century and still grace the buildings where Eckert's and Pluth's were" (email to Leigh, November 9, 2003).
 

3. The Eckert Building

     In the photo above, note the figure in the second-story window between "Eckert" and "Market." At the right is part of the Western Hotel.

     Jim describes Eckert's Market and its owners: "When I was a boy, Eckert's still had a coal furnace with a local retiree who was colorful and gruffly friendly who stoked the furnace--Jim and Stan Eckert worked for their father and were still slaughtering livestock into the late forties and early fifties in the rear of the butcher shop. I watched both steers and hogs killed and butchered and was aware Old Man Eckert--their father--made a blood pudding with the blood from a freshly killed goose. Jim and Stan were interesting men who ran a clean, well-stocked neighborhood grocery with the added attraction of fresh meat--and affluent customers ventured to the Sangamon Street despite the presence of the Western--a much rougher bar than Forehand's, right next door--because Eckert's had high-quality meat. Jim and Stan treated me with kindness and affection and some degree of interest in my playing football and throwing the shot put in high school."

     "Eckert Apartments had lots of interesting folks, including Jess Simpson--a terrific bowler and Pony League baseball coach--an interesting guy--Pete and Ron Ross's grandfather" (from Jim's handwritten note to Leigh, November 10, 2003).

     Jim continues: "Next door to Eckert's was Hap Armbrust's lunchroom (back to the south toward Pluth's [Dave's Upholstery in above photo]--he had a lunch counter, a few card tables in the back and a great selection of comic books and newspapers in the front--he gave up trying to run me off--I read every comic book just as I strived to read every piece of adult fiction at the library, at least in part because Clair Kresse--the librarian--told me children were not allowed in the adult section. I conspired with my mother and other more congenial library clerks to begin reading Hemingway, Steinbeck, and several books with turned-down or dog-eared pages where the good parts were" (email to Leigh, November 9, 2003).

     The following two photos were taken approximately a century apart ("the past is but the prelude").

4. Early 20th-Century View of Sangamon Street Showing the Eckert Meat Market

(Photo in Gleason, Lincoln: A Pictorial History, p. 71)

     The caption reads, "The 100 block of South Sangamon Street was known as 'Dutch Row' since the business owners in that block were of German nationality. Pictured left to right are P.M. Biwer's Grocery; the Lincoln Volksblatt (upstairs); Stuhlman & (Adams) Bucke Shoe Store; and John Eckert's Meat Market." Note that most of the men are wearing suits and ties. Standing in front of Eckert's are four butchers in white aprons. Hanging on either side of the front door are carcasses (of hogs?).
 

5. Contemporary View of the Pluth, Eckert, and Western Hotel Buildings on Sangamon Street

(Leigh Henson photo, 10-2003)

     The several parked vehicles on an autumn weekday afternoon suggest that Sangamon Street continues to be a commercial focal point 150 years after the founding of Lincoln, Illinois. 

     The railroad depot in 1853 was on the near side of this street at the far right (out of sight).  That was the site where Abraham Lincoln christened the town with his name on August 27, 1853.
 

6. Stuan's Second Hand Store and Avers' Clothing Exchange

     At the left is part of the Western Hotel building with sign in lower window that says "Coming Soon! The Record Shop." The photos I have in this series from the 1960s do not include one showing the main part of the Western Hotel, unfortunately; but we are lucky to have the ones we have.

     The location indicated as the future Record Shop must have been the site described by Jim Knecht: "On the other side of the Western was Frank Ball's barbershop--I think Frank was Trelby Ball's father--I believe Trelby and his wife still live in Lincoln.  Then Stuan's Second Hand Store--which I think was a Feed Store--grain for chickens, livestock, etc., before it was a second-hand store and then next door was Avers' Second Hand Clothing Store--Mrs. Avers was Mrs. Stuan's daughter--I think--and then the Illinois Tavern owned and operated by Grover Field--I believe his granddaughter may be the present proprietor of the Blue Dog--or at least she is related--, and one of Grover's daughters was Blanche Madigan who ran the bowling alley of Broadway with her husband Harold [the Tin Pen Recreation]--they were related to Red Madigan--the father of Congressman Madigan--I think Harold's father was Red Madigan's brother" (email to Leigh, November 9, 2003).
 

7. Grover Field's Illinois Tavern and Charles Dutz's Paint Store

     The building where the Illinois Tavern was located is now the Blue Dog Inn Restaurant. A photo of the Blue Dog Inn appears at 36. Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era. The Dutz Paint building has been razed, and the property is now a parking lot.

     Note the gigantic ball of string in the window of Mr. Dutz's store. This great example of folk art from the Route 66 era is still on display in downtown Lincoln. Read about it and see a photo at Lincoln Daily News: http://archives.lincolndailynews.com/2001/May/09/.
 

Chicago Street of the Route 66 Era (now in the Logan County Courthouse Historic District)

     The storefronts on Chicago Street below faced the buildings on Sangamon Street seen in the above photos. Again, separating Chicago and Sangamon Streets were Elm Park and the GM&O Railroad tracks. The photo below shows John Hickey's Billiards, the setting of Jim Knecht's short story titled "Other People's Money."
 

8. Storefronts on the 500 Block of Chicago Street, Lincoln, Illinois (1965),
Showing Hickey's Billiards (Center, with Dark Facade and Striped Awning)

     Jim says that to the left of Hickey's is Don's Barber Shop, where Roscoe "Squirrel" Paterson also cut hair. Leigh Henson had been one of his clients, and he does recall some of the barber's mannerisms. 

     Part of the sign on Don's Barber Shop is noticeable in a photo I have that was taken of an Illinois State Police truck in the middle of Chicago Street on the evening of October 11, 1950, during surprise gambling raids. These raids, among many throughout the state that year, were conducted by the Illinois State Police at the direction of reform Governor Adlai Stevenson, II. Certainly, there were more heinous crimes in Lincoln and Logan County in the Route 66 era--including death related to botched abortion and murder by shotgun--, but the gambling raids and the subsequent legal proceedings engrossed countless citizens and sparked much debate. Later in 2004, I intend to add a Web page to this site to tell that story, based on my reading last fall of numerous editions of the Courier and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on microfilm.

     My proposed Web page will explain that in Lincoln and Logan County most of the illegal gambling machines confiscated from various businesses on October 11, 1950, were pin ball machines, rather than slot machines. The raids were very controversial--raids on taverns, but not on such private clubs as the Elks, KCs, Moose, VFW, etc.

    Jim says the business to the right of Hickey's was Slick's Tavern: "it was an interesting place that seemed to avoid both scandal and fights--a quiet bar. I think there had been a poker game upstairs earlier, but like Hickey, Slick concluded the risks outweighed the benefits" (email to Leigh, 10-17-2003).

     [Leigh's note: "Slick" was Audas Foutch. I have seen ads for Slick's in the Lincoln Evening Courier of the 1950s indicating steak was on the menu. The photo above shows a sign advertising Budweiser. I am not sure why the tavern photo does not show a Schlitz sign [Lena's tavern had one]. A reliable source tells me Slick had the lucrative Schlitz franchise in Lincoln--there was a time when Schlitz rivaled Bud. Perhaps Slick switched allegiance to Bud, or perhaps the photo shows the tavern subsequent to Slick's time--different owner, different brand loyalty.]

Lincoln, Illinois, and the Beginning of Judge Knecht's Interest in the Law:
A Tribute to the Legal Profession in Logan County of the Route 66 Era

      In January of 2004, I asked Jim for some comment on how Lincoln, Illinois, influenced his decision to pursue a legal/judicial career, and he emailed me the following response on January 15, 2004. Clearly, his account echoes the theme of this Web site that "the past is but the prelude"-- the past lives today and inspires the future. I think you will find his response most interesting and informative.

     "As a boy I played on the courthouse square both before and after the Centennial and I saw men who I believed were lawyers and judges--and when I later learned their identities I thought about first impressions. Walsh was a character who would have been known whether lawyer or village philosopher. 

     One man who made a strong impression was John McCullough--he was a county judge in the early 60's before I graduated from high school and I watched him handle proceedings involving several young men who were friends or acquaintances--in those days, juvenile proceedings were not closed to the public--he seemed to have strength and resolve and be totally in command of his courtroom [emphasis mine].

    He defeated Harold Trapp in a county judicial election which then made Judge Trapp available to run for the Appellate Court in 1964--the year of the Goldwater debacle.  Under the judicial article there were to be three justices of the Appellate Court elected to the court from central Illinois--the selection of candidates was at a convention  rather than a primary.  A contingent of Democrats met with Republican bigwigs and suggested the Republicans nominate 2 in their convention, the Dems would nominate 1 and no one else would run--thereby giving the Republicans the majority on the court, but the Democrats would have 1 judge.

    The Republicans laughed, refused and nominated 3 candidates assuming they would win all 3 seats--instead they elected only 1 because Lyndon Johnson carried even central Illinois--the 2 Democrats elected were Harold Trapp and Jim Craven--2 Democrat liberals--Harold served for 20 years and Craven for 16.  John McCullough always claimed he was responsible for Harley Trapp being on the Appellate Court--if Harley has been elected County Judge he would never have run for the Appellate Court, but since John beat him it gave Harley a chance for higher office.

    Then in 1984 when Justice Trapp retired, it was John McCullough who was elected to take his place after winning a hotly contested primary and general election.  In 1986 I was elected to the Appellate Court and have served 17 years with John McCullough--and we served together on the Circuit bench from 1975 to 1984.  It seems symmetrical that I was influenced by his manner and the way he carried himself to think about being a judge, and now we serve together.

    While being educated in the affairs of life at Hickey's Billiards, I met a friend of my father's named John Mestinsek--who I believe ran a shoe store years earlier--he was by then retired but worked part time at Schoen's Shoe Store on the square while also studying the racing form and getting tips from Frank Buckstegge, a former fire chief or assistant chief who was the morning attendant at Hickey's.

    Mr. Mestinsek told me I should become a lawyer--he knew I was a good student and he wanted to give me advice, knowing my father was away from home in the Army.  Odd that he was giving me that advice as I was thinking about that very profession.  He told me being a lawyer was the best job because the most important people in the world as well as the working man all came to the lawyer with hat in hand to ask for help when they were in trouble or to ask for advice about some legal problem or issue.  I perceived that he was talking about power--and that appealed to me at the time, but I also wanted independence and I believed a law degree would provide that.  Later when I was working at the [Lincoln] State School, I began thinking about the law as an instrument of social change--and I believe the desire to help others, particularly those less fortunate, was a motive to attend law school [emphasis Leigh's].

    I believe there is an echo in my life of what I told you about my discomfort and resentment at having a backer or a stakehorse--someone whose interests I served --I believe this may have led me to the judiciary where I saw myself as serving others with a degree of independence and not being at the beck and call of a client.  I would have the opportunity to do well while doing good.

    I believe the county seat lawyer who accepted almost every client who walked in the door and who agreed with a handshake or a nod of his head to a colleague's request for a continuance, who met for coffee with other lawyers but also the people of the town and ate at the lunch counter and sipped a beer in the dark, cool dark of a corner saloon, who had a mastery of the language and who could draft a will or cross examine a witness, and play cards with the Sheriff but challenge him on the arrest of a client--who could argue and fight and laugh and tell stories--some even true--those lawyers were the craftsmen of a way of life which had to change, but for a time they were the knights errant of the prairie, and were men to be admired for their versatility and their willingness to do the best they could for every client no matter his social station or race--I believe they existed even though my impression is an idealized one that led me to the law and helped me understand practicing law in the grand manner is a thing of the past--it is now a business.  It was not when I came to it or came to the realization that was what wanted I wanted to do [emphasis Leigh's].

    If more lawyers today and politicians and men and women of business understood small town America and understood the people of their time and place--and spent more time in pool halls studying the human condition, the world would be a better place" [emphasis Leigh's].

Luminaries of Bench and Bar of the Route 66 Era in Lincoln and Logan County

9. Celebration in the Hotel Lincoln of Judge Stringer's 75th Birthday

(From Ethel Welch and Raymond Dooley's
 The Namesake Town: A Centennial History of Lincoln, Illinois, p. 34)

     Note:  The scene above most likely occurred in the Banquet Room of the Hotel Lincoln. A color picture postcard, showing that rich Tudor-style setting, can be seen at 26. Hotels & Restaurants of the Railroad & Route 66 Eras.

     Several men in the above photo were involved in the aftermath of the 1950s gambling raids in Lincoln and Logan County (mentioned earlier). Seated at the far right is Judge Bevan; he presided during the legal proceedings related to the raids. Harold Trapp, Sr., standing at the center, defended the handful of businessmen who fought prosecution. As my proposed Web page will show, Counselor Trapp was truly a sly old fox of a tactician from the old school described by Jim Knecht above. The defense of these businessmen was Mr. Trapp's last major case before his passing. Also pictured above is C. Marvin Hamilton, States Attorney in the early-to-mid 1950s during the ongoing and controversial anti-gambling activity in Lincoln and Logan County.

     Attorney Fred Blanford and Judge Knecht have provided information about Lincoln Attorney Thomas Walsh (not pictured above)--an old-school lawyer they knew in Lincoln and a close contemporary of the men in the above photo. A color picture postcard of the Tap Room of the Hotel Lincoln, where Fred sometimes chatted with Mr. Walsh, is available at 36. Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era.

     Using the information about Mr. Walsh provided by my native Lincolnite collaborators, I added a page to this Web site in tribute to him at: http://www.geocities.com/findinglincolnillinois/contributors/thomaswalshesq.html.
 

     10. Judge John McCullough, LCHS Class of 1949, with Colleagues of the Logan County Bar, Including Counselor-Writer-Sage Fred Blanford, LCHS Class of 1959, and Logan County Circuit Court Judges Gerald "Gerry" Dehner (retired), LCHS Class of 1960, and David Coogan, LCHS Class of 1961

(From Paul Beaver's History of Logan County 1982, p. 628)
 

Background for "Other People's Money"

     Jim Knecht early developed an abiding interest in literature (as well as in pool). Before attending the College of Law at the University of Illinois, he graduated from Illinois State University in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in English. Presented below on this page is Jim's first published creative writing. It is a short story whose setting is Hickey's Billiards, the site of some of Jim's extracurricular activity that by his own admission proved very educational. 

     Jim shares a passion for billiards with his Lincoln Community High School classmate Dr. Thomas "Tom" Tierney of Tri State University at Angola, Indiana. In the late 1990s, Tom and  Jim took semi-private lessons from Jerry Briesath, the Academic Dean of The Pool School, in Madison, Wisconsin. Briesath is the "Dean" of certified master instructors--certified by the Billiard Congress of America. Jim explains, "that experience [lessons] plus my giving Tom a book of pocket billiard stories entitled Great Pool Stories edited by Robert Byrne (containing stories by Pushkin, Tolstoy, Milne, Stegner) prompted him to challenge me to write a pool story for a humanities program at Tri State" (letter to DLH, November 14, 2003).
 

11. Left to right:  Judge Jim Knecht, Dean Jerry Briesath, and Professor Tom Tierney

(Photo provided by Jim Knecht)

     Jim provides further background and context for his story:

     "I did a short story about pool and Hickey's as part of an Indiana Humanities Council program at Tri State University in Angola, Indiana--an engineering school where Tom Tierney was responsible for single handedly creating a humanities program and institute and getting a beautiful old building renovated with a small theater, an impressive board room for meetings with wonderful etchings and museum quality items on display. . . .  I appeared there for a special program jointly sponsored by the Humanities Council and the University and WBNI Public Radio in Ft. Wayne.

     I gave a speech on "Pool, Politics and Abraham Lincoln" and then read the original short story for broadcast over WBNI--and then had the story published in the Southern Indiana Review.  [In the speech] I hypothesized what a pool game between George Bush and Al Gore would be like--with their behavior and attitude toward the game as clues to the voters about how they would be as President. This related to Lincoln because he played billiards--and I suggested if more politicians had spent time in the poolrooms of America they would be closer to and have a greater appreciation of their time and place and the people who would be voting for them. Then, after the speech I read my short story "Other People's Money"--it was the short story that was published but both the speech and the short story went out over the public radio airwaves of Indiana. 

     It was joyous to read my short story aloud to an audience in that beautiful theater on Tri State's campus (the building, theater, etc., are Tom Tierney's legacy to that school--by force of will he garnered contributions and support for the renovation). The audience liked the story--I was amazed.

     One of the things I enjoyed most was getting to write a short blurb about myself as a writer for the literary journal--I noted that I was paid to shoot straight for a living--I like thinking about what I learned in the pool hall about people and the human condition when I decide cases.

     All of this is by way of saying that it took me years to realize what writers have often said is really true--write what you know. The story about pool and an evening in Hickey's was essentially autobiographical with a fictional gloss.

     There are stories everywhere, but the stories of Lincoln resonate in a special way for those who were children there and lived in the stories" (Jim Knecht in email messages to Leigh Henson in August and September, 2003).

    On October 8, 2003, I made written request to the Southern Indiana Review to reprint "Other People's Money" here and received that permission from the journal's editor (Web site of the Southern Indiana Review is http://www.usi.edu/SIR/index.asp). Jim, of course, has also granted permission for his story to appear on this Web page. You will surely enjoy this fictional account of Jim competing at pool in which his main adversary is not his opponent.

"Other People's Money" by Jim Knecht

     The screen door slammed and I looked up from the snooker table at the back of Hickey's Billiards.  In the low light of the room I recognized Wayne Kendall as he stood swaying near the counter.  The man with him wore a suit and was smoking a cigarette.  The pool tables were empty.

     Kendall stood for a moment, his eyes adjusting to the dark.  Mr. Hickey spread his hand on the card table in back behind where I was shooting snooker balls.  He raked in the pot and then got up to saunter toward the front and see what Kendall wanted.

     I ran the numbered balls on the table without a miss as the three men spoke in a low murmur.  Behind me, someone dealt another poker hand as Col. Wolpert filled Mr. Hickey's seat.

     Mr. Hickey came halfway back to me and motioned for me to come to the front table.  I spotted the pink six ball and banked it into the tight side pocket and then left the snooker table.  I walked to the front carrying my cue.  I leaned against the cigar counter listening to the Cardinals on the radio as I stared at Kendall.

     Kendall's eyes glimmered as he stretched his neck and looked me over.

     Kendall said, "That's him?"

     Mr. Hickey said, "He shoots a good game. The best of anyone around here."

     Kendall grunted but stepped forward too close.  I could see the pores of his nose and smell the liquor on his breath.  He said, "I want you to play this guy for me and beat his ass."

     "Why don't you play him?" I asked.  Kendall had once run the other pool hall in town and was the best bank pool player I ever saw.  "I'm drunk and he won't shoot banks.  I need you.  Hickey says you shoot a good stick and I want to send this fat sonofabitch home to Peoria with an empty wallet."

     I looked at Mr. Hickey and he nodded while chewing on his cigar to tell me it was ok to play with Kendall backing me.

     I looked at the other man.  He smiled.  Old suit--bad teeth and scuffed shoes.  I figured he'd been drinking but not as much as Kendall.  "I didn't come here to play some kid," the stranger said.  "What's up, Kendall?  I thought we'd play."

     Kendall craned his neck and looked him in the face and said, "I'm not stupid--I can't even see the end of the table.  The kid will play for me and do the same as I would.  He'll beat your ass, Baynes."

     "Ok," I said.  "Let's play 9-ball."

     They bickered over the stakes and decided on $20 on the 9 and $5 on the 5, with Mr. Hickey to handle the rack.

     Baynes asked if anyone had a cue he could use, but Mr. Hickey told him all the private cues were locked up.  He picked up a house cue and we lagged for the break.  He shot the cue ball and I shot the 9. The cue ball floated up and back and didn't quite make it to the rail. The 9 ran smooth and even with flashing stripe and came soft to the rail.  I won the break.  I break from the right to get more action.  I made 2 balls on the break, then made the 1 in the side and left myself in traffic.  I kicked at the 3, and left him safe.  He stepped to the table and with good stroke made a hit on the 3 leaving me with a tough bank.  Instead of playing safe I banked the 3 in the corner where it dropped with a soft thunk.  Then I ran the table.  Baynes ignored me as Mr. Hickey racked the balls and I broke again making the 9 on the break.

     I was shooting over my head.  After the next break, I missed, Baynes got a 5 ball, but I made the 9 after a nice four ball run.  I lost track of the dollars, but Baynes only made the 9 ball twice and a few 5 balls as I won game after game.  Baynes was disgusted--pacing, sighing, cursing, and moaning about my luck, and I was lucky.  When you're making shots you get lucky.  They go together.  Baynes had no luck and his good stroke couldn't clear his clouded eyes.  I could smell the stink from his body--booze and cigarettes.

    I could tell he and Kendall didn't like each other and Kendall picked at Baynes about his shooting and losing to a kid and Baynes started making noise about going home.  Kendall snorted and called him a chump.

     Baynes got mad and swore at Kendall for setting him up--promising to play and then having me play instead.  He got worked up and paced back and forth.  Kendall was up about $250.  Baynes offered to play a three game set for $500 and then quit.  It was after midnight.  The poker game was over and the players had drifted home.  The pool room was quiet but for the faint whirr of the overhead fan and the hum of the lights.

     Mr. Hickey racked the balls, chewed his cigar and said nothing.  Kendall looked at me, and then at Baynes and smiled.  He clenched his cigarette between his teeth and smoke curled around his head.  He said, "Let's do it."

     Baynes said, "I want the break on the first game."  Kendall was cocky and gestured to tell him to go ahead.  Baynes broke the balls, made one on the break then one more shot and played safe.  We played safe back and forth.  Baynes' stroke was soft and sure, and his bridge was steady.  His eyes were clear.

     We each made another ball.  Baynes had a combination shot on the 9 but didn't seem to see it.  He was more careful as he looked over the table before his shot.  I saw his tight smile and we made eye contact.

     His eyes were cold and I knew he'd seen the combination.  He lined it up and gracefully stroked the cue.  The cue ball clipped the 5 and the 5 tapped the 9 into the corner.  It dropped and Kendall's face sagged.

     Hickey was slow in racking the balls giving me time to think.  I didn't want to think.  I wanted to shoot--to play.  Baynes broke and no balls fell.  I ran five balls and left him safe.  We jockeyed and nursed the balls, both of us trying to avoid a mistake.  The 9 ball sat close to the corner pocket.  If I made a thin cut on the 6, the cue ball would travel three rails and kick the 9 in the corner.  It was a three cushion billiard Mr. Hickey taught me.  The cut was risky.  I could miss and leave the table open.  Anyone would expect me to drill the 6 and get position on the 7.  That would be the smart way to play.

     My stroke was measured and even and I paused on the back swing.  I shot and the cue ball sliced the 6 and began its journey around the table.  The cue ball neatly kicked the 9 into the corner.  Baynes tapped the butt of his cue on the floor recognizing the difficult shot.

     Kendall's face was red.  He'd been nipping on a half pint of whiskey from his rear pocket.  "You lucky shit--you didn't even see that 9 ball.  You shoulda shot the 6 and then run out.  You got lucky using my money."

     Hickey racked the balls and I chalked my cue.  Baynes knew I played the shot.  So did Mr. Hickey.  But Kendall was unhappy even though I made the shot.

     We were even--one game each.  The next game would decide who went home with a thinner wallet.  I moved the cue ball to a different spot behind the string to break.  I made two balls on the break then two more on good shots.  Kendall was still muttering--not satisfied--I could hear him telling Mr. Hickey I thought too much of myself.

     I ignored Kendall and focused on the table and Baynes.  He was clear-eyed and steady, with no slump to his shoulders.  Our eyes met.  I knew he had been sloughing off.  He was a strong player and had never been drunk.  He was hustling Kendall and hustling me.  But now I was the shooter and could make Kendall some money by playing my game and running the rest of the balls.  This was the game.

     Baynes nodded.  He was ready to lose.  He knew I could shoot.  My billiard shot showed what I could do.  I saw Kendall out of the corner of my eye.  I shot the 7 ball--a tough shot--it rolled slowly and stopped in front of the pocket. The table belonged to Baynes.  He ran out--crisp and clean and drilled the 9.  The set was over, the money was lost.  Kendall was out $250 instead of up $750.  He counted out the bills--and left them on the counter.  Baynes gathered up the bills and neatly added them to his money clip.

     "Nice shooting, kid.  It was just my night."  I could see the intelligence behind his eyes.  He knew what happened.  He might know why, but that didn't matter.

     Kendall was tired and drunk and disgusted.  Baynes walked out the door alone.  Kendall tossed a crumpled $10 bill on the counter.  He didn't look at me, but told Hickey, "Give this to the kid for his trouble."  He walked out into the dark summer night and the screen door slammed once again.

     Mr. Hickey looked at me and I looked at the crumpled bill.  Slats Houston was sitting in shadow in one of the big chairs along the wall.  The old wino had watched all our games.  I picked up the bill and walked over to Slats.  "Here Slats, this is yours."  Slats smiled and licked his lips and wiped his mouth.  His hand grasped the $10.  I walked back to the snooker table and placed the numbered balls on their spots.  I began shooting the balls.  I like shooting balls.  I never cared about other people's money.

     Note:  When Jim snail mailed his story to me, he included a note that says in part:  "In September [2003] I had a 4 1/2 x 9 pool table (the size of Hickey's front table) installed in my office.  Great for my mental health."
 

Pulaski Street in Downtown Lincoln

     The following photo shows the distinctive architecture of an 1893 building that housed the only other pool hall in Lincoln, Illinois, during the Route 66 era. The buildings picture below are located on Pulaski Street, which was perpendicular to Chicago and Sangamon Streets. The buildings shown here were just around the corner from Hickey's Billiards in the direction toward the courthouse square and just one block west of it. The pool hall of the 1893 building had been owned, somewhat chronologically, by folks named Baker, Bree, Kendrick, Naugle, and Smith.

12. 1893 Building That Housed the Only Other Pool Hall in Lincoln During the Route 66 Era

(Photon taken and provided by Fred Blanford, 2003)

     The photo was emailed to me by Fred Blanford--another native Lincolnite pool-playing attorney before he knew I was making this Web page. Fred wrote about this place: "where I learned and practiced the gentlemanly art (despite Music Man) of pocket billiards" (email message to Leigh Henson, 10-28-03).

     Several weeks after I announced this page, Stan Stringer emailed the photo below, which comes from Dan and Betty Baker and which shows much of the store front seen in the above photo. The date near the top of the building, however, was not captured. Stan's message included this explanation: "Last fall I visited Dan and Betty Baker, who now live in Collinsville, IL. Betty asked me if I could copy some family pictures for her to share in their family. I was pleased to do this for my former neighbor. Two of the pictures from the Baker family were quite interesting, and I asked Dan if he would have any objection to me sharing them with you for your website. Dan said he didn't mind." The other photo Stan refers to dates to 1910 and shows Dan Baker's father, age 18, in the Scheid's Cigar Store. That photo appears at 22. Factories, Past and Present with the section on cigar making. Email Stan at sstringer@cox.net.

13. The Dan Baker Cigar Store at 405 Pulaski Street (billiards, too)

(Photo from Dan and Betty Baker dating to the 1930s)
 

Judge Knecht's Professional Life    

     The official biographies of Illinois Appellate Court judges appear in the Illinois Blue Book (published by the office of the Illinois Secretary of State), and the following biography of Judge Knecht is taken from the 2001-2002 edition (Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State):

     "James A. Knecht was born in Lincoln in 1944. He was educated at Illinois State University (ISU) and the University of Illinois College of Law, graduating with honors in 1973. He served as a law clerk to Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert C. Underwood (1973-74), as an Associate Circuit Judge (1975-78) and as a Circuit Judge (1978-86) before being elected to the Appellate Court in 1986. He is secretary of the Appellate Lawyers Association of Illinois and a member of the Illinois State and McLean County Bar Associations, the American Judicature Society, the Illinois Judges' Association, and a fellow of the Illinois Bar Foundation. Judge Knecht is secretary of the ISU Foundation Board of Directors and serves on the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council and the National Board of Directors of the Corporate Alliance To End Partner Violence. He has been an adjunct professor at ISU since 1977 and is co-founder of the Robert C. Underwood Inn of Court. In 2000, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from ISU. Judge Knecht and his wife, Ruth, reside in Normal. They have two children and two grandchildren" (p. 184). [For a professional biosketch of Judge Underwood, Judge Knecht's mentor, see http://www.state.il.us/court/SupremeCourt/Previous/Bio_Underwood.asp.]

     In an email message to me of 1-5-04, Jim provides the following update:

     "I am President of the Appellate Lawyers Association of Illinois--the first justice of a court of review to be elected a member of the Board of Directors, an officer and then President of this unique bar association comprised of lawyers who specialize in appellate practice--I got involved in the Association because I wanted to maintain a connection with the lawyers who regularly appear in courts of review.

    I am President of Beyond the Books Educational Foundation--a not for profit charitable foundation that funds innovative programs in the schools of Bloomington and Normal--programs that would not be funded by the school districts.  I am also a member of the National Judicial Advisory Board of the Judicial Education Program of AEI-Brookings, a program at the Brookings Institution which provides economic and scientific programs for state court judges."

     Before he attended law school, Jim worked at the Lincoln State School (later called the Lincoln Developmental Center), and some of his recollection of that experience appears in this Web site toward the bottom of 4. Introduction to the Social & Economic History of Lincoln, Illinois.

     About his role as adjunct professor at Illinois State University, Judge Knecht emphasizes that "classroom teaching is an important part of the life I have chosen" (letter to Leigh Henson, 11-10-2003). At ISU, he has also served as a member of the Attorneys' Advisory Council sponsored by the Department of Politics and Government, which provides a biographical sketch of him on the following Web page: 

http://www.politicsandgovernment.ilstu.edu/Attorney%20AC/Knecht.htm

Recognition from Illinois State University and a Tribute to His Family

     In 1990, ISU honored Judge Knecht with the Alumni Achievement Award, and in 2000 ISU presented him with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

14. From the Illinois State University Alumni Magazine

          Below is the text of Judge Knecht's acceptance speech of the ISU Distinguished Alumni Award:

     "When I was a boy, I lived a stone's throw from the GM&O railroad [in 1972 the GM&O merged with the Illinois Central, forming the Illinois Central Gulf (ICG)]--and just as close to the train depot where Abraham Lincoln squeezed the juice from a watermelon into a tin cup and poured it upon the ground to christen the town--Lincoln.

     There until I left for college I sometimes sat on summer nights on the curb in front of Hickey's Billiards and watched the Anne Rutledge and Abraham Lincoln passenger trains pull through the station.

     The dining car windows gleamed at night, and when I heard the lonely whistle of the train depart, I wondered if I might someday leave on a train and wondered where and how far I would go.

    Today I am but 30 miles from where I began, yet I have traveled a journey of a thousand leagues.  When I dreamed about where I would go, I believed there would be a destination--an identifiable place to stop. Now, I know the meaning and true pleasure of life is in the journey and there is no one place at which to arrive.

     I am blessed to be on this journey with someone I love--and but for my wife--who saw things in me, I did not see in myself, I might well still be on that curb in front of Hickey's Billiards.

     In 1990 I received the Alumni Achievement Award. Then I said this university gave me a respect for ideas and a joy for learning. This university gave me a knowledge of history and literature. This university gave me a means to an education.

     My wife gave me faith in myself and hope in our future. My family gave me love and support. My daughter and son-in-law gave me two precious gifts--my grandchildren--Jade and Jackson. My sister-in-law became my sister and her son--my nephew. My friends and neighbors have given me support and counsel and keep me in touch with the real world outside the limiting confines of a courtroom.

     Today, Illinois State University awards this honor for my achievements.

     But the honor belongs to my teachers, and to my wife and family and friends who helped me achieve and who inspired me to strive, and seek and find.

     And the true glory of this award is not in receiving it--the true glory is that I have a family and friends such as you to share this moment.

     I am honored.

     I am grateful" (April 8, 2000).

     At the University of Illinois College of Law, Judge Knecht had served as an adjunct professor and justice, and the U of I College of Law also presents a page summarizing his career in private practice and public service:

http://www.law.uiuc.edu/faculty/DirectoryResult.asp?Name=Knecht,+James

     Respond to Jim at j.knecht@verizon.net.

Contemporary Businesses on Sangamon Street  in Lincoln, Illinois

     Many Sangamon Street buildings have been maintained or restored, housing present-day businesses ("the past is but the prelude"). Below are links to information about some of these businesses.

The Eckert and Pluth Buildings: An article--with photos--in LincolnDailyNews.com about the renovation of these structures and their present-day businesses. Access the following link, and scroll to "Lincoln: A Destination." http://archives.lincolndailynews.com/2000/Apr/22/comunity/business.htm

The former Illinois Tavern site: Web site of the Blue Dog Inn: http://www.bluedoginn.com/

The former Lyons Grocery Building: An article about Old Joe's Tavern: http://findinglincolnillinois.com/lchs1953/oldjoe.html

The former Lauer Brothers Hardware Building: Web site of Coffee with Einstein: http://www.coffeewitheinstein.com/

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     Email comments, corrections, questions, or suggestions. 
Also please email me if this Web site helps you decide to visit Lincoln, Illinois: DLHenson@missouristate.edu.
 

"The Past Is But the Prelude"

The founding fathers of this town asked their attorney, Abraham Lincoln, for permission to name this new community after him, and he agreed.  On the first day lots were publicly sold--August 27, 1853--, Abraham Lincoln, near the site of the train depot, used watermelon juice to christen the town as Lincoln, Illinois.  It thus became the first town named for Abraham Lincoln before he became famous.