White Walnut Farms
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Pinckneyville Great Place to Live! 7.333" x– A9.833" White Walnut Farms is proud to be a part of the Pinckneyville Community — a Great Place to Live! Quality education, good health care, a strong religious community, a professional agricultural industry, great hunting and fishing opportunities, the oldest County Fair in Illinois, the American Thresherman Association exhibitions, a winning sports tradition, a diverse business community, job opportunities, as well as friendly, honest, and hard-working people — those are just a few of the reasons to visit or live in Pinckneyville.
Our mission at White Walnut Farms is to balance successful farming and conservation practices with lots of fun! We appreciate the assistance of everyone involved.
production manager director of publication design managing editor copywriting proofreader director of photography photography lead design supporting design web site creation & support director of media purchasing
MATT PRICE Amanda White Laura Wilcoxen Jay Nehrkorn christina reese Lisa LEHR devin miller Jay Nehrkorn amanda white joe goetting JOSH CHANDLER DIANA VAUGHN
What’s Inside Special Thanks
About the Writer
Feature A Feeling of Belonging: The Breslin Family 4
Community Close-ups business development director of business development director of outside sales business development manager marketing consultant customer service director customer service representative
George Prudhomme debbie moss Bonnie Ebers steve graff kathy Risley Jamie Thompson
advertising director of ad development ad research ad traffic ad design
kacey wolters Mary kopshever Amy SchwartzkoPf Carol Smith JOSh Mueller
administrative support administrative support account support human resources assistant mailroom technician
Kathy Hagene carol Smith Terri Ahner Tricia Cannedy Teresa craig melinda bowlin
publishing systems specialist
chairman and founder chief financial officer
Craig Williams Rhonda Harsy
and distributed through the Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce. For advertising information or questions or comments about this book, contact CommunityLink at 800-455-5600 or by e-mail at info@CommunityLink.com. Chamber of Commerce, 4 South Walnut Street, Pinckneyville, IL 62274, Telephone 618-357-3243, www.pinckneyville.com FOR
© 2009 Craig Williams Creative, Inc., 4742 Holts Prairie Road, Post Office Box 306, Pinckneyville, IL 62274-0306, 618-357-8653. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced without the expressed written consent of the publisher.
2 Foundation for Pinckneyville
From Lucky to Legend: Dick Corn
Meet the Mann Behind the Counter: John Mann
Coming Full Circle: Irl F. Engelhardt
Getting the Ball Rolling in Pinckneyville: Alisa Mayo
Lodging and Legacy: Peg Doughty
Giving His Best Shot: Stu Wright
Life in the Fast Lane: Kimberly Spencer
Mardi Gras: Too Much Fun for One Tuesday
The Perry County Fair: Over 150 Years and Counting
Luke’s Shade Tree Café: Home Grown, New Flavor
Game On: Youth Sports
An Assembly of Agricultural History
Head, Hands, Heart, and Health
A Storied Summer
Biz Briefs Executing a Plan for Success
In Our Nature
Under One Roof
Hunting, Fishing, and Outdoor Life
Designs Unlimited: Everywhere You Look
Leading the Way in High School Fishing
The Grecian Steakhouse: Location and Lifestyle
Arts & Heritage
Linked to Pinckneyville
Community Partners Report Chamber President Larry West
Gayl Pyatt, Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville 14
Creativity, Craftsmanship, and Culture
Over 30 Years in the Spotlight
Medieval Christmas to All
See You in Pinckneyville!
What’s Happening in Pinckneyville Public Schools
St. Bruno Catholic School
Twin Students Double Their School Credit 17 RLC Murphy-Wall Continues to Grow
And That’s the Way It Was
Calendar of Events
Report Card ABOUT This book is published by CommunityLink
We the People
To Your Health Pinckneyville Community Hospital
Manor at Mason Woods
Pinckneyville Ambulance Service
ARCH Air Medical Service: Help From Above
Uncommon Knowledge Carving out a Community
Digging Into the History of Local Coal Mines
The Blue Bloods of Pinckneyville
Around the Neighborhood A Great Place to Hang Your Hat
The Chamber of Commerce and the Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville would like to thank the following organizations and businesses for their generous support of this project. DONORS Bigham Farms Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville Pinckneyville Plumbing & Heating ADVERTISERS Antique Mall of Perry County................................. 7 Barr Trucking Co.................................................. 40 City of Pinckneyville............................................ 21 Consolidated Insurance Agency, Inc...................... 3 Contempri Building Systems............................... 27 Designs Unlimited................................................. 7 Emling’s Towing Service, Inc............................... 13 First National Bank.............................................. 13 The Flower Patch, Ltd......................................... 13 Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville......................Outside Back Cover Grecian Steak & Seafood House......................... 16
Hair Etc............................................................... 18 Hubler Tire Service, Inc......................................... 3 Pat Kattenbraker, Certified Public Accountant.............................. 27 Kuhnert Builders, Inc........................................... 35 Kuhnert Electric & General Maintenance............... 7 McDaniel’s Furniture........................................... 18 Murphy-Wall State Bank and Trust Company.......................... 1 Pinckneyville Community High School................ 18 Pinckneyville Community Hospital...................... 40 Pinckneyville True Value...................................... 40 Place Insurance & Real Estate – Cheryl Bigham................................................. 18 Red Hawk Golf Club............................................ 16 Rend Lake College Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus................. 18 White Walnut Farms.................... Inside Front Cover
ay Nehrkorn was born in Pinckneyville and raised just a few miles away in Tamaroa, where he still resides with his wife and their two children. He received a bachelor’s degree in advanced technical studies from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1991 and worked as part of the technical staff at a compact disc and DVD factory for 13 years. Following his factory life, he attended Rend Lake College and received an Associate of Arts degree, specializing in English. He currently works as a freelance writer doing both promotional writing and frequent features for outdoor publications.
f e at u r e
A Feeling of
few years ago, golfing couple Dan and Michelle Breslin found that the course of their lives was leading them to Pinckneyville. The move that their family thought would be a culture shock has turned out to be full of pleasant surprises. After graduating from college, Dan moved from his home near Philadelphia to Miami Beach, Florida, to pursue a career as a professional golfer. He spent the next 20 years there in the golf industry. Dan was working as the head pro at a local course when he met a young woman from Puerto Rico named Michelle, who had become interested in learning to play golf. Dan, who was her golf instructor, became interested in learning about Michelle. The two married and moved to Tampa, where they stayed for the next six years. During their time in Tampa, Michelle gave birth to their twin daughters, Megan and
4 Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce
Sarah. With a wife and two young children to consider, Dan began seriously thinking about his career options and what might be the best course for his family. “In terms of security, I knew that ownership was the primary way of being secure in my profession,” he said. “It wasn’t realistic to buy a golf course in Florida, but we happened to meet with a broker who introduced us to a Southern Illinois facility. I came up a couple of times to investigate it. I brought the family to see if they would enjoy living here, and we fell in love with the place.” The place they fell in love with was the Red Hawk Country Club just east of Pinckneyville. Dan and Michelle bought the course in partnership with Mike and Dixie Travelstead, and they changed the name to Red Hawk Golf Club. But they also fell in love with the lifestyle Pinckneyville promised their family. It was the little things that won them over
first — driving through town without traffic lights, seeing people waving to each other at the stop signs in town. But the more they looked, the more they understood what this town really had to offer their family — a feeling of belonging. “We didn’t know anybody here, and we didn’t have any family here, but we still thought, ‘What a great place to raise the girls!’” Michelle recalled. She says that through the golf course and their involvement in church, they were able to quickly make social connections, and they found a sort of surrogate family in their Pinckneyville neighbors. “The girls are having their first communion in a few weeks, and if we were in Florida we would have just invited my family. Here, we’re going to have a big party and we’re inviting the whole community, because to us they’re just like family now, and the girls feel that way too.”
f e at u r e
“It really is a friendly little city,” Dan said, echoing the town’s slogan. “The people have made us feel as though we’ve lived here our whole lives.” A major factor for the Breslins in making their move from Tampa was the cost of living. Michelle’s job is based in Washington, D.C., but she works remotely via the Internet. She says
“The people have made us feel as though we’ve lived here our whole lives.” that a Washington, D.C., salary goes really far in Southern Illinois, and that a telecommuter or home business could benefit from locating in Pinckneyville. Aside from being able to purchase a golf course and stretch a dollar on daily expenses, the lower cost of living here has allowed Dan and Michelle to do something for their daughters that they simply couldn’t afford in the city — enroll them in a parochial school. The Breslins are of the Catholic faith, and it was a big plus for them to be able to provide an educational experience for Megan and Sarah that includes a close-knit, religious environment. Along with their church involvement, Dan and Michelle have plunged right into community activities. They are both involved in coaching youth sports, and Michelle has been elected to the District #101 School Board. Dan is now part of the Chamber of Commerce and the city’s strategic planning committee. They’re excited about the opportunities they now have to participate in community planning and activities — opportunities that Dan says are very hard to come by in big cities. “It was just a lot easier to get involved that way, whereas in Tampa or Miami you waited to
get on a board or be in the chamber of commerce,” Dan noted. “Those are things that you may have to wait 20 years to get involved in when you live in a metropolitan area. Here, it was very accessible to become involved with the developmental activities of the community.” One of things that surprised Dan was the ease of doing business and the personal nature of the business environment in Pinckneyville. He says that easy access to key people in the business community is a huge advantage for small-town business owners. “If something comes up with the business and I call the vice president or president of the bank, for them to say, ‘I’ll come over there for lunch,’ or, ‘Come on over, I’ve got 10 minutes if you want to talk about it’ — that’s unheard of in other places,” Dan said. “We were lucky if the bank teller knew who we were in Tampa. Having that kind of access to people like bank officers and the financial advisors in town is an asset that our community has for people like business owners or retirees who really need to be connected to those kinds of services.” Dan and Michelle say the biggest surprise of all may be how busy and active their life has been since coming to Southern Illinois. Their previous home in Tampa was within a 45-minute drive of attractions like Busch Gardens and Disney World, and they really didn’t think they would have much to do after they moved to Pinckneyville. “We were concerned about what we would do in terms of entertainment; we thought we would have to go to Carbondale to have any kind of semblance of what we were used to, but we’ve actually been so busy here it’s amazing,” Dan said. “Every Friday night we have a function to go to at the KC Hall, or elsewhere, and it seems like we’re just as
busy — maybe even busier — here with things like fundraisers or sports.” Among the variables involved in convincing them to make the move was the opportunity for Michelle, Megan, and Sarah to see all four seasons. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, Dan had experienced spring, summer, fall, and winter. For the rest of the family, the changing seasons were something new. Michelle says the weather in Florida was so mild that they almost always felt obligated to be outside and going places. As a result, the family never really experienced being indoors together for any length of time, and they were worried that they might be bored when winter weather drove them inside. What they’ve found is that those days have provided important downtime for the family to bond. For Dan and Michelle, those opportunities to sit by the fireplace playing games or watching videos with the girls have become the most treasured activities of all. “It’s incredible how we actually look forward to a Friday or Saturday night when we’re not doing something,” Dan said with a laugh. “It’s been exactly the opposite of what we thought would happen.” As for Megan and Sarah, they’re blossoming in their new home; they say they love their new school and just feel safer in a small-town environment. They’ve had the opportunity to participate in a lot more sports, make new friends, and found that they really enjoy horseback riding. When asked if she is disappointed that they moved from Florida, Sarah says that she thinks she was meant to live in Pinckneyville. What better gift could a community give to a child, or a family, than that kind of feeling of belonging?
Too Much Fun
for One Tuesday
n a tradition that goes all the way back to the early 1920s, Pinckneyville holds an annual Mardi Gras celebration in October on the weekend closest to Halloween. Okay, it isn’t actually “Fat Tuesday,” but the carnival atmosphere in town makes Pinckneyville’s version an event the whole family can look forward to. Each year’s celebration has a theme chosen from a list of entries. Preparations for floats, costumes, and activities begin weeks in advance. The Mardi Gras Pageant is held two weeks prior to the event, and a queen is crowned to reign over the entire celebration.
On the Friday of Mardi Gras, the weekend kicks off with a kids’ costume parade in the afternoon, followed by trick or treat at the fire house courtesy of the community’s businesses.
The carnival atmosphere makes Pinckneyville’s version an event the whole family can look forward to.
The Perry County Fair:
On Saturday, downtown streets are blocked off and the community comes together to enjoy a flea market, craft and antique fair, car show, live entertainment, and other activities. Daytime attractions end at 4 p.m., and the annual Mardi Gras Parade begins at 7 o’clock sharp. The parade, with floats, marching bands, and a host of outrageously costumed characters from within the community, draws thousands to Pinckneyville’s streets. Come to Pinckneyville and enjoy a Mardi Gras festival with trick-or-treat flavor. For more information, contact Peggy Sims at 618-357-2139.
Over 150 Years and Counting
whistle sounds as the train pulls away from the depot, and recently disembarked passengers blend into the ebb and flow of the busy streets. A man in a horse-drawn buggy pulls back tightly on the reins to let a group of running boys pass in front of him. Across the street, a family in a farm wagon moves slowly toward the fairgrounds with their soon-to-be prize-winning cow in tow. It’s the late 1850s, and the crowd in the streets of Pinckneyville has come to take part in a yearly event that will become the oldest continuously running fair in Illinois. The Perry County Fair was established in 1856 with the formation of the Perry County Agricultural Association, whose stated goal was to “improve the condition of agriculture, horticulture, and the mechanical and household arts.” The fair took place in a few different locations in its earliest years, but by the 1870s the association had purchased 6 Foundation for Pinckneyville
20 acres that became the current home of the Perry County Fairgrounds. Continuous improvements have taken place over the years, including the addition of grandstands, barns, a race track, and more. Horse racing has been part of the fair since the 1870s, and the current fair includes both thoroughbred and harness racing. The Miss Perry County Pageant began in the 1950s, followed later by the Jr. Miss Perry County Pageant for 11- to 14-yearolds and the Little Miss Perry County Pageant for girls ages 4 to 6. Another 1950s addition to the lineup was tractor pulling. Other attractions at the fair, held each June, include a demolition derby, the Western Horse Show, and gospel music night. A midway area features carnival games and rides, plus a family-fun night with old-fashioned games like sack races and bale tossing. Of course, there are still livestock and home product exhibits for young and old alike.
New Flavor T
he opening of Luke’s Shade Tree Café was a homecoming for Ryan Luke, but it’s been a taste of something new for the community of Pinckneyville. Ryan combines locally produced ingredients with his culinary training and experiences from the East Coast to produce dishes that are fresh, delicious, and unique. Breakfast, served daily, includes freshly baked pastries and muffins or their famous cinnamon swirl French toast. Ryan makes a wide variety of fresh breads for the sandwiches on their lunch menu, with choices like ham and cheddar on panini or a scrumptious turkey Reuben with his distinctive potato salad. The café serves dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings, offering an ever-changing variety of contemporary cuisine, such as citrus chicken with potato cakes and green beans or dishes made with seasonal game. The wine list includes selections from both local and distant vineyards, and coffee lovers will enjoy a beverage from the espresso bar. Ryan’s roots have always been in Pinckneyville. His great-grandfather, Olin Luke, operated a restaurant in town from the 1940s to the 1970s, and his grandfather played on Pinckneyville High School’s 1948 state championship team. Ryan himself is a PCHS graduate who moved to Florida to study at the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach.
Following his training, he worked as a sous chef in exclusive country clubs on Jupiter Island and in Isleborough, Maine. He went on to take the head chef position at a bistro in Juno Beach, Florida, and then worked as head chef at a private country club in Chicago. He finally returned home to Pinckneyville to be near his family in 2008, but he didn’t come alone. Ryan met his wife, Zoe, while she was serving an internship on Juniper Island for her travel and tourism management degree. The two were married in 2006. Ryan and Zoe say that during construction they were overwhelmed by the help they received from friends and family. That help came from many directions, including construction professionals who asked for nothing in return. That support from the community was critical in allowing Ryan and Zoe to create a dining environment that matches the fine quality of the food they serve.
That support from the community was critical in allowing Ryan and Zoe to create a dining environment that matches the fine quality of the food they serve. “To do this in Chicago or St. Louis would have cost us four or five times what it did here, and it would have been a much bigger risk,” Ryan said. In short, Pinckneyville made the whole package possible.
Water • 618-357-2408 314314 W.W. Water St.St. • Reservations or Carry-Out: 618-357-2408.
An Assembly of Agricultural History
ach year during the third full weekend of August, thousands of people from across the country flock to the Perry County Fairgrounds to see agricultural history come alive. The event is the American Thresherman Association’s annual steam, gas, and threshing show. The ATA was established in 1959, and Pinckneyville has been the proud host of the show since 1962. Visitors can view plowing exhibitions done by animal teams and antique equipment dating from the 1970s all the way back to 1906. History buffs will enjoy seeing two 110horsepower Case steam engines in action, as well as hundreds of antique tractors and farm implements of all types and vintages. The ATA’s 1913 International Titan — one of the first gasoline tractors that the company ever made — is also on display. Daily attractions include crop threshing, saw milling, shingle milling, blacksmithing, a flea market, and much more. The event also features activities like antique and modern tractor pulls, truck pulls, an antique car show and swap meet, and pedal tractor pulls for the kids. An outdoor worship and memorial service is held on the grounds each year on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. The ATA also holds a harvest show each year in October at the Perry County Fairgrounds, so rural history enthusiasts have two chances to enjoy seeing farming done the old-fashioned way. http://americanthresherman.com/
Success Executing a Plan for
or Pinckneyville Mayor Joseph Holder, the first two years of his administration have been focused on bringing together a new plan for economic growth and creating the logistical support to carry it out. One of the results of that effort was the opening of the city’s Economic Development Office in 2008. The office gives potential businesses a team within city government to work with, and it provides existing businesses a resource for finding and developing opportunities to grow. “If you don’t have a plan that will make something happen, then something is most likely going to happen to you, and you probably won’t like what that is,” Holder said. “So, we set out a plan and started working toward a goal. “The first thing the city needed was an economic development department to furnish the logistical support for the plan we wanted to follow,” he continued. “The Council was good enough to allow me to hire a couple of companies to work contractually in supplying engineering and technical support for grant writing and meeting grant requirements.” The city secured a location for an office at 111 South Walnut Street and hired a coordinator to assemble documentation and act as a contact point for businesses. With the support
team in place, they are prepared to take advantage of available opportunities. One of those opportunities is tourism. Holder says that the town’s geographical position relative to facilities like the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds and the World Shooting Complex makes it a viable place for that industry to grow. Nearby Pyramid State Park is also a major attraction, and one goal is to annex the park into city limits. The city currently owns six acres within the park, and Holder believes that improving camping facilities and providing additional services to park visitors would benefit tourism. Thanks to efforts that began in the 1980s, Pinckneyville City Lake is now a destination for fishing tournaments. The facility is unique in that it is fully handicapaccessible, and Holder says the next step is to increase its utilization through improved campsites. Another aspect of the plan is to promote Pinckneyville so that it will grab the attention of decision-makers in business and industry. In that respect, the mayor feels it’s pertinent to first consider the types of businesses that really need to be in Southern Illinois. He says that support businesses for new ventures like the Prairie State Generating Company in Lively Grove and potential coal mines that have received permits in the area could be very significant. “We’re trying to meet with these people and ask them what Pinckneyville can do to help them get what they need in the way of resources and support industries,” Holder noted. “You have to make yourself available to those people, and that takes support from the
economic development team that the city has put together.” Another objective of the team is to bring in businesses that will allow citizens of Pinckneyville to do all of their shopping in their own community. An agreement has been signed to locate a new car dealership in town, and the team is in discussions with major department stores to obtain potential new retailers.
The plan is to promote Pinckneyville so that it will grab the attention of decision-makers in business and industry. “We’re a fit for many types of stores, and a goal of the economic development department is that anyone who lives in Pinckneyville can buy everything they need here in Pinckneyville if they desire to do so,” Holder said. The vision of the Economic Development Office is to build a strong economic machine for Pinckneyville that makes its existing businesses better, recruits new businesses, and helps the city be prepared to meet the challenges of a changing business environment. Working in concert with other community development organizations, the team is ready to do just that. For more information about what the city of Pinckneyville can do for your business, call Development Coordinator Carrie Ford at 618-357-8775 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Under One Roof
hree Pinckneyville business owners have combined forces and created a new company called Pinckneyville Shopping Center LLC. Hubler Tire Service, Kellerman’s Feed Store, and JC’s Heating and Air are jointly building a new complex on the south end of town that will house their businesses and provide two new rental storefronts under the same roof. Construction of the new 33,000-square-foot complex is taking place on the site of the old Hubler Tire building on South Main Street. Once it is finished, the two other businesses involved will demolish their old 8 Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce
facilities to make room for parking. The two areas available for rent will be around 5,000 square feet each, and the complex will have a porch across the entire frontage to give it a “country” feel. Hubler Tire Service owner John Hubler says the hope is to provide an attractive facility that will bring new jobs into Pinckneyville and dress up the area at the south end of town. Discussions are under way with retailers concerning the rental areas within the complex, which should be operational by the fall of 2009.
Everywhere You Look W
hen Steve Tanner announced to his friends and family that he was going to open a sign shop, he was told quite frankly that he would starve to death. Always a good listener, Steve opened the shop anyway. That was 20 years ago, and he’s still eating. “Everywhere you look there’s a sign,” he explained. “Somebody’s got to be making them.” Designs Unlimited, which opened in 1989, is actually a lot more than a sign shop. Yes, they do make signs and banners of all shapes and sizes, as well as doing lettering on vehicles
and custom decals — but that only makes up about half of their business. The other major component of the operation is painting gymnasium floors and murals, which they do all across the Midwest. While painting gym floors is a big job, and any mistake can be costly, Steve says the experience level of his crew has made that part of their business very profitable. “There’s definitely a technique to it,” he said. “We pull up, unload, get everything to the floor. After that, we hardly say a word for the first two hours, because everyone knows what they need to be doing. In those two hours we
can generally have the whole thing taped out and ready to paint. Over the years we’ve really gotten it down to an art.” Another growing market that he’s excited about is wrapping vehicles with graphics. Steve attended school in St. Louis to learn the technique, and he is now taking on projects. The business has largely become a family affair. Steve’s wife, Dawn, is currently in school finishing a graphic design degree. Her new skills have made her time in the shop even more valuable. Son Dustin has also been involved from an early age and is now an important part of the gym floor crew. The Tanners are currently in the process of setting up an additional building for the operation. Whether or not Designs Unlimited can continue this type of growth is impossible to know for certain, but you could definitely say that the signs are all there.
Location and Lifestyle
veryone in Perry County knows that the Grecian Steakhouse in Pinckneyville is a great place to get tender, handcut steaks and a hearty buffet — it has been since the day that Angelo Sandravelis and his wife Christy opened its doors nearly 20 years ago. What many people don’t know is that the restaurant’s location was carefully chosen after a long, difficult search to find a place with both business potential and a familyfriendly environment. The restaurant business has been a part of Mr. Sandravelis’ life since an early age. He worked his way up in the industry through the years, washing dishes, waiting tables, preparing food. He experienced all aspects of the business and had the opportunity to learn from working in a number of upscale restaurants. Eight years after coming to the United States, Mr. and Mrs. Sandravelis began searching for the right place to open their own 502 S. Main St. • 618-357-3809
restaurant. It was two long years before they found what they were looking for in Pinckneyville. Location is critical to any business venture, and the Sandravelises recognized that the site’s potential market was much larger than the town’s size might indicate. Serving quality food in a comfortable dining atmosphere would, they knew, build a loyal following both in town and throughout the surrounding area. The other portion of the equation was that they wanted a good community in which to raise their children, and Pinckneyville turned out to be an excellent choice. The town provided a friendly and safe environment for their daughters, yet it was still close to good colleges and larger cities like St. Louis and Carbondale. Though his daughters are now grown, Mr. Sandravelis feels that Pinckneyville still offers the best of both worlds for growing families. Since its opening on March 25, 1990, the Grecian Steakhouse has become a Pinckneyville landmark, and Angelo and Christy Sandravelis have become an integral part of the community they chose to make their home. Two years was a long time to search, but the two decades that followed have made it all worthwhile.
Pinckneyville I read an article in the DuQuoin Evening Call which said that the Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce was looking at putting together a brochure for the community. I saw that and thought, ‘Wow! I’m from Pinckneyville; I ought to go talk to those guys.’ www.communitylink.com
raig Williams was building his graphic design company in “Those were big deal days for me,” Craig said in retrospect. “Had it Carbondale, Illinois, when he saw that article 15 years ago, and not been for his encouragement and his astute observation of a painfully the booklet he created for Pinckneyville back then spawned shy student that just needed a little prodding to come out of his shell, I the business that has produced what you see before you now. don’t know when I would have come out of that shell.” CommunityLink has designed brochures, magaAnother life-changing event came at age 16, zines, maps, and Web sites for communities when his father passed away. Craig inherited throughout the country, but Pinckneyville will He laughs now as he tells from his dad both an entrepreneurial spirit and always be their point of origin. It’s the place love of photography, which he combined to of being so introverted astart where both the founder and the company came Williams Studio One while still a senior of age, and it’s the town they still continue to in high school. A promotional project for the that it took him three call “home.” led him and his friend Bob days just to get out of the studio Craig wasn’t so enthusiastic about talking Chambers to the idea of opening to anyone when his Pinckneyville experience Silkworm, a shirt-printing busicar at his new school. first began. His family bought a motel in town ness they originally ran from and moved there when he was 13 years old. He laughs now as he tells Bob’s basement. Without having his father to guide of being so introverted that it took him three days just to get out of the him in the beginning stages of his business career, car at his new school. Louis Schweitzer, principal of the junior high at Craig says he began to seek out advice and positive the time, took him under his wing and changed the course of his life by ideas through development tapes by men like Earl cleverly nudging him out of his timidity. Nightingale and Zig Ziglar.
10 Foundation for Pinckneyville
“So now I’m eighteen and a half years old, and I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of these guys with all these great ideas, and it was sort of like a surrogate father,” he remembered. “I had lost my dad, and clearly I was searching and missing him. Then here were these great, wise voices of these accomplished men that I was listening to while I drove all over Southern Illinois selling T-shirts and launching that business. They played a huge role in establishing my early ideas of what I might be able to do — with the help of others, of course.” After eight years at Silkworm, Craig felt it was time to move on and do something else. What that next thing would be was still uncertain, so he found himself searching yet again. “I left the area and went to California, and I didn’t have any really clear idea as to what I was going to do,” he recalled. “I honestly stumbled around for a few years and decided that it wasn’t really for me. I spent a little time in the Seattle area and then came back to Southern Illinois, still not knowing what I wanted to do. Ultimately, in 1993, I ended up starting a little company called Desktop Design Works.” Craig combined his graphic design business with that of a client who was doing software training, and they shared space in Carbondale under the name Buenerkemper and Howe. It was shortly after that time that the Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce project came along, and he presented his bid for a lavish,12-page publication. They agreed to do it, despite the cost, and everyone was very pleased with the final product. “As it turned out, I was extraordinarily fortunate to have been able to do that, because that piece gave me a portfolio item that I could take out and show to other communities,” he said. “Everywhere I could find anyone who would listen to me for five minutes I would take it and show it to them. They all loved it and said they’d love to have one, but they all said they didn’t have money for it in the budget. I got shot down about 25 times in a row,” he says. Then, a trip to Centralia, Illinois, in conjunction with a packaging project, became a pivotal moment. While he was in town, Craig stopped by the Centralia Chamber of Commerce and showed a copy of the publication to Executive Director Mary Heitzig. To his surprise, she agreed that they would do the project; but to his shock and dismay, she also said she had no intention of paying for it. Instead, she wanted him to approach the members of her chamber and ask them to support it through the purchase of advertising space. He decided to give the idea a chance, and the advertising revenue was ultimately seven times greater than the initial fee he was asking. “I began to realize that this was a lever and that there were real possibilities to this idea, because I could go to a chamber of
commerce and say, ‘Do you like this? It won’t cost you anything to do. I’ll go out and sell advertising, and all you really need to do is help me develop the theme and the content and give us a little direction in the community. We’ll do the rest and put this thing together for you.’” Armed with a winning formula, he founded Craig Williams Creative in March 1996 and began to pursue other promotional projects for communities. The phrase “CommunityLink” was originally used for a method of giving readers a way to get more information about advertisers, but when the Internet began to take the world by storm, Craig found it to be the perfect name for marketing the printed publications and their Internet counterparts. As CommunityLink began to make serious inroads into the market and expand its product line, the team finally outgrew their original base of operations. “We were located in a 1,200-square-foot house in Pinckneyville, and the space was really cramped,” Craig said. “We didn’t have room for a conference table at that time, so we had our staff meetings at a picnic table under some oak trees outside — weather permitting.” The company built a new facility just east of town in 2000, which remains their home to this day. While the larger building met the needs of the business, it also left them with the challenge of finding ways to keep the evergrowing staff tightly knit and functioning as a unit. For this reason, the new facility was designed as a very open space with few offices or doors that might isolate key team members. As for Craig’s office, it features a meeting table instead of a large desk, and the policy concerning his door is that it’s open to every employee and idea. “Our philosophy is really one we’ve all worked on and have all contributed to,” Craig explained. “Anybody in a leadership position has a responsibility to lead, but I will say that we are going to listen to what people have to say. We encourage everyone on the team to speak up, contribute their ideas, and take initiative. “I’ve always been really proud of the team that we’ve got here,” he continued. “Most of them come from a radius of maybe 25 miles from Pinckneyville, and these guys are competing with the best in the business from the biggest cities in the country. That makes me very, very proud of our region, of our community, and of our people, because they’re hard workers and problem solvers.” A changing global economy and a shift in media toward pixel publishing have given CommunityLink much to think about and do as they continue to position themselves for the future. Still, this opportunity to promote the town where it all began has given Craig and his crew a chance to revisit their roots and remember who they are: a searcher who found what he was looking for in the very place he started from, and a company that has come a very long way without ever really leaving home.
“I began to realize that this was a lever and that there were real possibilities to this idea.”
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fter 15 years of service at the University of South Carolina, Pinckneyville native Larry West returned home and now serves as vice president of finance/ administration at Rend Lake College. He has served on the board of Pinckneyville’s Chamber of Commerce and is now the Chamber’s president. In a recent interview, West discussed what the Chamber is doing and what they hope to accomplish for Pinckneyville in the future. What do you see as the Chamber’s most important function right now? Obviously the promotion of the community is a top priority. We’re trying to attract new businesses, and the proper type of businesses. We would like to keep our own shopping at home, for example. We also need to take a more active role in education as well. I think the Chamber needs to reach out to all of the school districts in the area and ask them what we can do to help them and help the students in our community. 12 Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce
What types of projects has the Chamber been focused on, and where do you see them leading? I think the biggest benefit will come from the finalization of our strategic plan. It will be a fluid document, but we want to make some appropriate changes. There will be some employment opportunities coming up in the future, mainly in construction. We want the plan to reflect provision for training for those upcoming jobs — hopefully utilizing the Rend Lake College MurphyWall campus in Pinckneyville. We are also concentrating on our downtown area and on what businesses we could attract that would really fit the niche of Pinckneyville. One thing that you have to realize is that it’s extremely difficult to attract manufacturing jobs in Illinois at this time, and it’s a buyer’s market right now for those types of industries. So what we need to focus on in the plan are niche or cottage industries — finding things that there is a demand for that you can’t just run to any retailer and get. Tourism is another huge component. If you look at our area we have lakes, great deer hunting, and wonderful outdoor opportunities. The town and the Chamber are looking very hard at Pyramid State Park, and at making improvements to that park to bring more outdoor activities into the area. I’ve also seen some good progression in areas like the Illinois (High School) Basketball Hall of Fame
and Museum, and the (Illinois) Rural Heritage Museum, which are currently in process. We’ve brought in some events like the Smithsonian’s traveling “Between Fences” exhibit, which was well received by the community and exposed our kids to history and some culture. We need more of those types of things that bring in tourism and support educational opportunities for our kids. I think tourism will be a big thrust for the area and there will be growth in the supporting businesses that go along with that. There is a wide array of possibilities, and the key is to never hang your hat on just one thing. We want to be as flexible and diverse as possible to keep our options wide open.
We have a number of businesses that are firmly established and well-managed, which gives a solid foundation to build on. What do you feel are Pinckneyville’s greatest assets as a community? We have a wonderful sense of community in Pinckneyville. Most people here want to see positive change and increased opportunities for their children. The majority of the young people want to stay in the area after they complete college, so we want to give them that chance.
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between the community’s industries and Rend Lake College has always been strong in terms of training or retraining of the labor force, which is also a plus. I see the Rend Lake College Murphy-Wall campus expanding, probably within the next five years. For a small town, Pinckneyville has a pretty good infrastructure as well. We have a small airport. There are three highways coming into town and an interstate that’s only 20 miles away. There is rail transportation available for freight. All of these things can create opportunity. There is also a strong entrepreneurial spirit in town that we need to support. We have a number of businesses that are firmly established and well-managed, which gives a solid foundation to build on. The partnership
What is the Chamber’s vision or goal for Pinckneyville as a community? The vision involves some growth of the community, but of the type that I like to call
“nurtured growth.” There are opportunities that sometimes look good on paper but that really aren’t going to fit the community. We want to bring in employment opportunities that fit the needs and culture of the town. I think the Chamber is going to become even more active in promoting causes that are necessary to attracting people to our community and also in finding sources of revenue to support those causes through grants and other avenues. Our hope is to continue to be a tight-knit community, but one with a higher per capita income and increasing opportunity for our residents. We’re excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and we want everyone to see what we see in our town — a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.
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Foundation for the Future of
Pinckneyville Our mission is to make Pinckneyville a destination … a community people enjoy visiting and a place people want to make their hometown.
14 Foundation for Pinckneyville
ayl Pyatt is President of the Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville, a nonprofit development organization focused on improving the economic, health care, education, and recreation amenities and opportunities in Pinckneyville. Here, she talks about the Foundation’s goals, achievements, and plans for the future. The Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 taxexempt organization. Our mission is to make Pinckneyville a destination — a community with quality education, state-of-the-art health care, and economic stability, a community people enjoy visiting and a place people want to make their hometown. We strive to achieve our goals by helping other tax-exempt organizations who are making a difference in Pinckneyville. For example, we have assisted the Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce by obtaining, putting together, and manning a traveling Smithsonian Museum exhibit in Pinckneyville. “Between Fences” was on display at the Pinckneyville Fairgrounds Pavilion for six weeks last fall. Over 2,000 guests visited the show. Many school children had their first real museum experience as they walked through and learned about the role of fences in American life. We have also planned and executed the Chamber’s Leadership Program, a monthly, day-long seminar about the various aspects of civic life in Pinckneyville. Our participants, young adults from Pinckneyville, learned about local government, health care services, first responder resources, tourism, starting a business, and our educational institutions. Our hope is that many of them will go on to serve Pinckneyville on its school boards, City Council, hospital board of directors, and other such community organizations. We are helping the Pinckneyville Community High School Foundation bring two jazz concerts from The Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis to Pinckneyville — one for students only and the other for the public. Two large projects we are looking forward to helping are the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Illinois Rural Heritage Museum. These two museums will make terrific additions to Pinckneyville’s tourism base. We are helping these two groups locate sites and will be helping them raise significant private gifts and public grants to renovate the sites. It’s hard work, but it is fun to help make Pinckneyville a happier and more prosperous place to live and work. The town has supported our efforts, and that makes it all worthwhile. www.foundationforpinckneyville.org
audition on trumpet and was selected to play in the District VI Illinois Music Educators Association Music Festival. Eighth-grader Emily Schmidt is a member of the Southern Illinois Children’s Choir and is getting the chance to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. • For students interested in technology, the Junior High started a computer technology club. The club builds computers, explores digital photography and video, learns about operating systems, and does some entry-level programming.
Pinckneyville District 101 www.pchspanthers.com
• Pinckneyville Community High School District #101 graduates were geared up for college in 2005 through 2009. During that time, 84 percent of graduates went on to college and 23.5 percent received academic scholarships. • The PCHS art department was awarded a grant through the Illinois Arts Council to fund a visit from artist Leslie Muetchler and a printing press. Muetchler worked with PCHS art students for three weeks as they learned various printmaking techniques.
Community Consolidated District 204 Pinckneyville District 50 www.p50.perry.k12.il.us
• Elementary School teacher Renee Van Pelt received three different honors in 2009. She was named WSIL-TV news “Class Act of the Week,” Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce 2008–2009 “Outstanding Educator of the Year,” and was recognized in the Teaching with Primary Sources newsletter of the Library of Congress. Principal Scott Wagner says the reason she is so highly regarded is simple: “She’s just excellent with kids.” • The Elementary School’s Box Tops for Education program created a partnership between the school and the elderly residents of the Manor at Mason Woods. The kids collected 18,000 box tops, which the residents at the manor then cut out and trimmed so they could be submitted. The program raised $1,800 for the district and brought two generations together for the benefit of the school. • The Junior High School’s music program is making its mark. In 2009, both band and chorus students were very successful in solo and ensemble contests. Seventh-grader Katie Kovichad had a successful
• District 204 had 90–92 percent of students meet or exceed state standards on ISAT standardized tests in the 2006–2007 and 2007–2008 school years. That’s around 12 percent higher than the state average! Principal Wood attributes the district’s success to small class sizes and an experienced staff that sees very little turnover. • With the help of a $1.1 million capital development grant, CCSD 204 built a new wing to the school in 2004 that includes a new gymnasium with concessions area, bathrooms with handicap accessibility, five additional classrooms, and a new office area. “Everyone likes new things,” Principal Wood said, “and the new building brings pride to everyone.” www.foundationforpinckneyville.org 15
St. Bruno Catholic School E stablished in 1887, St. Bruno Catholic School in Pinckneyville provides students with good academic preparation for high school and a strong moral background for life. The school is open to students of all faiths and offers a prekindergarten through eighth grade curriculum. Class sizes average around 12 to 15 students, and the faculty is made up of state-certified teachers, most of whom have 15 to 30 years of experience as educators. Consequently, a number of St. Bruno graduates have gone on to become valedictorians at Pinckneyville Community High School and have had very successful college and professional careers.
16 Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce
While St. Bruno is a small school, there’s no lack of activities for students. They have their own volleyball and pee wee basketball
“We get strong parental support here, as well as great support from the parish and the community.” programs, plus junior high co-op teams with a nearby school for baseball, softball, cheerleading, and basketball. Outside of athletics, they have a competitive speech team and a Scholar Bowl team, and their third and fourth grade
Team Quest participants recently earned the chance to compete at the state competition. The school is also very strong in fundraising activities for charitable organizations, which gives the children a chance to get involved in causes and learn the value of sharing with others. Principal Kevin Spiller feels that the best thing about St. Bruno is its family-oriented atmosphere. “Being a small school, we come to know the families quite well,” he explained. “We get strong parental support here, as well as great support from the parish and the community.” www.stbrunoparish.org/school.htm
Twin Students Double School report card
ot many students get their high school and college diplomas in the same year, but in 2008, Madeline and Alexandria Hawkins did just that. Taking advantage of a partnership between Pinckneyville Community High School and Rend Lake College, these twins doubled up on their credits and shaved precious time off their educational careers. The twins also saved their parents roughly $8,832 in tuition to RLC. Starting with the 2002–2003 school year, the Dual Credit Program, a cooperative program between PCHS and Rend Lake College, began giving high school students with appropriate placement scores the chance to earn college credits while completing their high school requirements. This partnership brings college curriculum into the high school and brings PCHS upperclassmen to the Rend Lake College MurphyWall campus. In both locations, students study a variety of subjects at the college level, receiving both high school and college credit for the coursework. The program, which eliminates some educational redundancy between the levels, is a winning situation for students (and parents) in terms of the cost of a college education, transition
to universities, and the time it takes to complete a degree. RLC Murphy-Wall Campus Coordinator Heather Bauersachs says that students like Alex and Madeline can also take advantage of a dual-enrollment option. Through dual enrollment, high school students can take additional night and summer classes with the same cost benefits as dual-credit courses. While not every student sets a goal of finishing high school and earning an associate degree at the same time, a few have followed in the Hawkins twins’ steps. A great benefit to Pinckneyville students and families is the reduced cost of receiving an associate degree from RLC. In 2007–2008, high school students were able to take courses and receive college credits while paying only a $10 book fee and lab fees for each class. Based on the cost per college credit hour at RLC during the 2007–2008 school year, students within the program saved $176,551 in college tuition by taking these courses under the dual-credit umbrella. PCHS administrator John Green says the experience students get from dual-credit coursework is also a benefit, as their exposure
to a college curriculum and workload gives them a taste of college while they’re still in an environment they’re comfortable with. Those who drive down the road to the RLC MurphyWall campus for afternoon classes get another gradual step toward the college experience. Ultimately, the program provides these students with transitional stepping stones toward college life. “It really helped me to transition more easily from high school to college by having that middle step,” Alexandria Hawkins agreed. “In college you have to study more, and there’s definitely a transition there.” For the Hawkins twins, the greatest benefit has been the time that they’ve saved through dual credit and dual enrollment. Madeline is a biochemistry/pre-med major at St. Louis University, and Alexandria is attending SIUEdwardsville as a biochemistry/pre-dental major. Without their dual-credit and dualenrollment opportunity, both of them would have been facing at least eight more years of
“It really helped me to transition more easily from high school to college by having that middle step.” school before entering their professional lives. Thanks to the program, and their personal commitment, they were able to shave three to four semesters off that time frame. The ready availability of the RLC MurphyWall campus and the high school’s participation in the dual-credit program have made higher education easier to reach. While the Hawkins twins were the first to experience “dual graduation,” the program’s possibilities ensure that they won’t be the last to see double when it comes to diplomas. www.pinckneyville.com 17
By RLC Staff • www.rlc.edu
he Rend Lake College Murphy-Wall Campus in Pinckneyville turned seven in 2009. The Murphy-Wall campus, a Rend Lake College satellite campus, opened in August 2002. The project was made possible with the support of Murphy-Wall State Bank and Trust, an anonymous donor, and state senators Bill O’Daniel and David Luechtefeld. Before the campus was built, RLC evening courses were held at Pinckneyville High School. The college also provided various training in areas like first aid and CPR to workers.
18 Foundation for Pinckneyville
Things have come a long way since a dozen area leaders, shovels in hands, broke ground on the project on a frontage lot along Highway 154. With two large classrooms, the MurphyWall Pinckneyville Campus now offers students general education courses, GED preparation classes, community education opportunities,
computer workshops, children’s camps, first aid and CPR training, food sanitation qualification, and specialized computer training requested by area businesses. It also provides dual-enrollment and dual-credit classes for PCHS students to earn college credit. Students can also complete college-placement testing at Murphy-Wall, as well as register for classes and pay their bill. Additionally, the campus is a site for Mid-Continent University’s bachelor’s degree program, ADVANTAGE, in its eighth round with RLC. In fall 2003, there were 363 students and the campus generated 652.5 credit hours. In comparison, 501 students generated 1,436 credit hours in the fall 2008 semester. Since opening day, the Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus has been a place of learning for thousands of students who have completed tens of thousands of credit hours. Director Heather Bauersachs said credit hours generated at the RLC Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus are on a consistent rise each semester. “We have grown since opening seven years ago, and we will continue to do so as we move forward to our 10-year anniversary in 2012.”
Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus has been a place of learning for thousands of students who have completed tens of thousands of credit hours.
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An Environment to Work and Grow In
hen you aren’t well, the last thing you want is a long trip to see your doctor or an extended stay in a distant hospital. Pinckneyville Community Hospital (PCH) understands this, so beyond providing general medical/surgical services and access to family practitioners, the hospital is committed to bringing specialized medical and rehabilitation expertise directly to the area it serves.
opportunity to see doctors with particular areas of expertise. In support of these clinics, PCH has the laboratory capabilities to perform almost any outpatient test required by clinic physicians, including nuclear medicine, mammograms, bone densitometry, ultrasound, and echocardiography. The hospital now has its own 16-slice CT scanner, which produces digital files that can be instantly shared with doctors anywhere in the world or downloaded to disk for the patient to keep. MRI scanning is also available twice weekly through a mobile service.
The hospital is committed to bringing specialized medical and rehabilitation expertise directly to the area it serves.
Advanced Services Oncology PCH has expanded its service to local patients through the addition of an active oncology clinic, which provides chemotherapy treatments and utilizes a mobile PET scanner to evaluate each patient’s progress. Hospital Administrator and CEO Thomas Hudgins says this service is a real blessing to patients who need it. “Not having to travel a long distance is a huge plus,” Hudgins said. “It’s enough to have to go through the treatments, let alone having a long ride there to think about it and a long ride going back home.” Specialty Clinics The hospital also hosts specialists from larger cities who hold regularly scheduled clinics in a variety of medical disciplines, giving Pinckneyville residents a hometown
Rehabilitation and Fitness Operating under the umbrella of PCH, the Southern Illinois Rehabilitation and Fitness Center creates a stepping stone for inpatients or outpatients on the mend, as well as a place where the rest of the community can focus on healthy living. The center provides physical, occupational, and speech therapy programs to give patients the rehabilitation they need to recover from events like major surgeries or strokes. Additionally, the facility’s personal trainer, free weights, stationary bikes, treadmills, and strength-training machines are made available to the general public for a monthly fee.
In a time when many hospitals struggle to keep important nursing and technical positions staffed, Pinckneyville Community Hospital has managed to keep its bases covered and offer a high level of experience in key areas. So how does this hospital compete and win in a market where health care providers are in high demand? Hospital Administrator Thomas Hudgins says it’s about having a local environment that the staff wants to live and work in, and then giving them the tools they need to grow. “We have staff members that have been here over 30 or 40 years,” Hudgins said. “They’re here because this is where they want to work. A lot of them have skills that are in demand in other places, but this is where they choose to be. I think that says a lot for the environment.” One of the ways that PCH keeps medical talent is by nurturing its own. Back in the mid-1990s, the hospital board established a program to cover tuition, books, and fees for staff members wanting to return to school to acquire new skills that matched the needs of the hospital. Once they return to the hospital to work in their new capacity, the debt is forgiven over a specified number of years of service. Hudgins explains that through this program, both the hospital’s needs and the career needs of the staff are being met. “A couple of them were able to do something they’ve wanted to do their whole lives but couldn’t because of the needs of their families. It wasn’t so much that they couldn’t find the time to go to school, but it was the cost of school. “Well, we took that piece of the equation and fixed it. That helped a lot of them go off to pursue a dream and then come back here to live it.”
101 N. Walnut St. • 618-357-2187
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Manor at Mason Woods
eeding a little help doesn’t have to mean losing your dignity. The Manor at Mason Woods is an assisted lifestyle community for seniors that promotes the independence and privacy of residents while offering the services and security they need. The facility was designed with the desired lifestyles of potential residents in mind. All areas are at ground level for convenient access, and 10 of the 40 private apartments are designed for couples. The facility has both studio and singlebedroom apartments, which include a small refrigerator, microwave, code alert system, and private bathroom. Residents bring in their own furnishings and decorative items so the space has a personal touch. The common areas have tasteful décor and include a gathering room, dining room, and library with computer access. Certified nurse’s assistants are on hand around the clock to assist residents as needed, and medication reminders are given. Three home-cooked meals are served each day with a variety of meal choices, and guests are welcome to join residents at meals for a small price. Housekeeping and laundry services are provided, and there is an on-site beauty salon and complimentary scheduled transportation. The manor has a full-time activities director and offers daily activities, including art classes, shopping trips, weekly church services and Bible studies, exercise programs, musical entertainment, games, and much more. Many volunteers from within the community participate, and families and friends are always welcome to share in the events. The Manor at Mason Woods isn’t a nursing home; it’s a new home for seniors who need a helping hand. The manor is committed to being an affordable living option, and it does take financial assistance through the state.
20 Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce
Pinckneyville Ambulance Service
he Pinckneyville Ambulance Service is a full-time entity that staffs three paramedic units each day of the week. They handled 3,028 calls in 2008 alone, and as of January 1, 2009, their area has expanded to include all of Perry County. Aside from increasing their service area, they’ve also increased the quality of the care they provide through the purchase of four portable 12-lead EKG monitors. “The ambulance service and the board of directors saw 12-lead field EKGs as something that would become an industry standard at
“It’s not mandated yet, but we decided we were going to get ahead of the game.” some time in the future,” said administrator Shane Malawy. “It’s not mandated yet, but we decided we were going to get ahead of the game.” The significance of the 12-lead monitor is that it provides a three-dimensional view of the heart, as opposed to the one-dimensional view that the conventional monitors on
most ambulances provide. The new monitors allow paramedics to recognize different types of cardiac events, including the very serious ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), a heart attack caused by blockage in the coronary artery. With the 12-lead EKG, they can recognize this event in the field, pass the information to the doctor via radio or cell phone, and take the patient directly to a facility with a cath lab for timely treatment. “We’re seeing door to balloon times between 80 and 90 minutes,” Malawy said. “They recommend no more than 90 minutes, so we’re right in the time frame. The key is early detection and early treatment, and that’s what these 12-lead monitors are really helping us do.” The service is also upgrading software in the units so that results can be sent to directly from the ambulance to the hospital. This will allow doctors to see the results remotely and be involved in the interpretation process. The unit is also capable of other functions such as blood pressure monitoring, oxygen saturation and carbon dioxide monitoring, external pacing, defibrillation, and cardio version. It’s definitely more than your typical ambulance EKG, and it’s yet another reason why Pinckneyville Ambulance Service provides more than just a typical ride to the hospital.
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hen hospitals or local EMS need to transport patients in a hurry, they call for help from above. For over 30 years, ARCH Air Medical Service has answered that call effectively and safely. ARCH’s Sparta, Illinois, base offers support to Pinckneyville’s medical infrastructure by expediting patient transfer while providing or sustaining the lifesaving care that critical patients need. Utilizing a powerful twin-engine helicopter, ARCH response time from the Sparta base to Pinckneyville is only 13 minutes. Depending on conditions, the aircraft is capable of speeds in excess of 150 mph to specialty-care facilities or metropolitan trauma centers. ARCH’s high experience standard for pilots and proactive safety measures have kept the company accident-free since its inception. The aircraft is also outfitted with sophisticated medical equipment and staffed with experienced emergency care professionals. On-board gear includes ventilators, external and internal pacing equipment, and multiple IV pumps that allow the medical team to improve upon or maintain the level of care established on the ground. Flight medical crews include an accredited nurse with no less than five years of ER or ICU experience and a flight paramedic with a minimum of five years’ experience in a progressive life-support service. The quality of ARCH’s service has also been noticed by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. Based on an in-depth review process, CAMTS awarded ARCH accreditation for its quality of patient care and safety of transport environment.
we the people
Luckyto DICK CORN
was kind of lucky in the timing of it. The Pinckneyville job didn’t come open until July. If it had been open in the spring or early summer, I wouldn’t have had a ghost of a chance of getting that job. I had no head coaching experience, but it opened so late in the year that most established coaches were already in place for the next year, so I was lucky enough to get hired.” That’s how Dick Corn describes the start of his legendary 32-year career as head basketball coach at Pinckneyville High School. Panther fans would later realize that they had been pretty lucky, too. During Coach Corn’s tenure, they got to witness over 700 wins, a multitude of titles, and two state championships. Raised on a farm in Macedonia, Illinois, Dick Corn attended high school in Benton and played basketball there for another famous coach — Rich Herrin. Aside from his parents, Corn saw Herrin as his principal role model, which ultimately led to his desire to become a coach. With his success at Pinckneyville, Coach Corn had offers and chances to make career moves along the way; but he stayed at Pinckneyville for the duration of his coaching career. While family and lifestyle played a part in that decision, he says that the coaching environment in Pinckneyville had taken hold of him too. “There were some opportunities to maybe make more money, but those opportunities were not better positions,” he said. “For what I wanted to do, which was coach high school basketball, there’s not a better place. In my opinion this is the very best place to coach. You get support from every possible avenue — from the fan base, to the school administration, to the kids. It was a wonderful place for me to make a living for my family. “The school was my life, not just nine months out of the year, but 12 months out of the year,” he continued. “I think that’s a credit to the atmosphere at the school itself and the appreciation I had for the opportunity that it gave me to make a living that I enjoyed.” While his coaching career at Pinckneyville brought him many accolades, including a “Coach of the Year” award from the 22 Foundation for Pinckneyville
National Federation of High Schools and induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, Corn says the most gratifying moments were in the little things. “I derived a lot of satisfaction from seeing the kids that maybe didn’t get to play a lot or get a lot of recognition make an important play in the game,” Corn said. “Then you could look them in the eye and say, ‘I hope this is a small reward for everything you’ve done for the program and all the hard work that you probably haven’t received proper recognition for.’” As a coach and an educator, Corn hopes most of all that he was able to teach his players and students important life skills like dedication, hard work, respect, and poise. Having the respect of the students was always important to him, and he says that it’s a good feeling when former students he took a hard stance with come back in later years and thank him for it.
“I derived a lot of satisfaction from seeing the kids that maybe didn’t get to play a lot or get a lot of recognition make an important play in the game.” “Those kinds of things mean a lot to me,” he said. “I think the longer I taught, the more I looked back on my days in high school — the teachers I respected and the ones I didn’t — and I hoped that I could at least earn the students’ respect. We weren’t always going to agree on everything, but I hoped that they would at least respect how I dealt with the situation.” After retiring in 2007, Coach Corn says 2008 was the longest year he had ever spent. He needed something more to keep him occupied, and the chance to lead the organization of a new sports hall of fame and museum in Pinckneyville was a perfect fit. He’s also still involved with basketball through camps and individual instruction, which gives him the opportunity to enjoy the best aspects of coaching. He says these transitional opportunities couldn’t have come at a better time in his life — but then, he’s always been a little lucky when it comes to timing.
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Mann Behind the Counter F
or many people, the beginning stages of a career path involve a trade school or university. In the case of Pinckneyville store owner and gunsmith John Mann, his education began when he was born, and his professor was a man he simply refers to as “Dad.” Today, John is the Mann of the house and an instructor who has presented the most important of lessons to several generations of outdoorsmen. Thomas Mann opened his first store, Pinckneyville Appliance, in 1946 on the town square. It stocked a variety of appliances, gardening equipment, and guns. Thomas also manufactured a line of outboard motors and worked as a gunsmith. It was during those days that he passed along his skills as a machinist and retailer to his son, John, who says that the business was part of his earliest recollections. “Since the time I was a very little boy, my dad would pick me up, set me on the counter, and put me to work cleaning parts,” John said. “I stocked shelves in the place from the time I
“The thing I offer to my customers is that when they come in here, it’s one-on-one.”
was big enough to ride a bicycle up to where we used to be on the square.” The shop moved to its current location at 515 W. Water Street and became Mann and Son Sporting Goods in 1968. After his father’s passing in the late 1970s, John took over the business. The store continues to offer hunting and fishing supplies, baseball gear, boots, and sporting apparel to the local community, but it’s the firearms aspect of the business and his skill as a gunsmith that has given Mann a nationwide customer base. The store is now an important Benelli Arms distributor and is one of only six major warranty and repair centers for Remington Arms. Whether a customer is from down the street or across the country, Mann still feels it’s important to give them the kind of small-store, personal service his family has always offered in their shop. “The thing I offer to my customers is that when they come in here, it’s one-on-one,” John said. “Some of my customers are from the city,
and they think it’s really nice to have someone actually sit down and talk to them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $50 gun or a $5,000 gun — a lot of guys want to talk to you about it before you do anything to their firearms. We talk to people on the phone every day that are expecting to get an answering machine or get put on hold over and over, but when you call here somebody is going to pick up the phone and say ‘hello.’” John has also taken the time to give back to the community and promote the area’s rich hunting and shooting heritage. He’s been active as an instructor in hunter safety courses for decades now, and it’s a role he takes very seriously. Not only are his students potential customers, but they’re also the children and grandchildren of his friends and neighbors. “I’ve enjoyed teaching over the last 30 years,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of great kids, and I just hope that through doing this I’ve been able to help keep someone from getting hurt. Thankfully, it’s been ‘so far so good.’” www.foundationforpinckneyville.org 23
we the people
o say that Irl Engelhardt has an impressive résumé is an understatement. Since his beginnings as a farmhand in Pinckneyville, Engelhardt has earned an MBA degree, been CEO of the world’s largest coal company, and served as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. He’s currently chairman of the board of directors at Patriot Coal Company, which occupies two to three of his days each week. On the other days, he’s back in Pinckneyville working on his family’s farm and helping with community projects. After a long and successful career in business, you could say that Irl Engelhardt has come full circle. For Engelhardt and his siblings, childhood wasn’t without its challenges. When he was only 5 years old, his father was killed in a collision with a train at an unmarked crossing.
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“I was 5 and my brother was 3,” he said. “Our mother was pregnant at the time, and it turned out to be twins. She had four kids under the age of 6, no husband, and no income. That really changes your life, and it resulted in our not having much monetarily. We didn’t really know it as kids, though, because if you have a nurturing parent and grandparents, as well as support from the community, you can still do fine.” To help provide for the family, Irl worked two jobs while he was in high school, putting in long hours on his uncle’s dairy farm and working in a department store in town. Like every boy in Pinckneyville, he wanted to play on the high school basketball team, but his work schedule wouldn’t allow it. But he says the sports atmosphere in town still had a positive influence and
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taught him some of the most valuable lessons he would ever learn. “Duster Thomas, who was the legendary coach here, made a few speeches to the whole student body, and some of them really stuck with me,” Engelhardt recalled. “He made the statement that anyone in town could shoot a basketball, but what he wanted was someone who wasn’t afraid. He said, ‘I want a player on the floor who wants the ball when the game is on the line and who isn’t afraid to fail, because if you have confidence in yourself, then you will succeed.’ “Although I couldn’t apply that in sports here in Pinckneyville, I applied it in the business world. I conducted myself in business with confidence — not overconfidence — and that allowed me to do things that some others wouldn’t do. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do those things, but they wouldn’t do them because they didn’t trust themselves enough to try.” Engelhardt went to the University of Illinois to get his bachelor’s degree in business and to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to get his MBA. After college, he took a job with the consulting arm of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm. The consulting portion of the business spun off to become Accenture, and Engelhardt worked for them as a project
manager for large computer system installations. Peabody Energy was one of his clients, and he found that he liked the atmosphere of the company. He joined Peabody in 1979 and worked his way up to become the CEO. He held that position for 15 years before gradually stepping down and going to the Peabody spinoff company Patriot Coal Corporation. In 2008, Engelhardt was awarded the Order of Lincoln Medallion, the highest honor that the state of Illinois can give.
“The bottom line is that it’s really just a great place to live.”
to be, because the sports, hunting, and fishing atmosphere is simply unmatched. “What’s interesting about people from Pinckneyville is that they may go other places, but they never really leave,” he continued. “Their allegiance is always still here, and that is really a sign of something good. It’s a healthy pride. Certainly it starts with the basketball tradition, but it goes beyond that. The religious community is so strong in this town that it creates a foundation that doesn’t overwhelm people, but helps to keep them on the right path. “The bottom line is that it’s really just a great place to live.” When a man with Irl Engelhardt’s résumé gives you the bottom line, you can bank on it.
“It was quite an honor,” he said of the award. “To be recognized by the state that you love is about as good as it gets.” But Engelhardt has an especial affinity for his hometown. He currently works with the Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville on various projects to help the community. He says he returned to Pinckneyville because it’s where he wants to be. “There’s just something magical about the town,” he said. “The people are great and it’s a good environment to raise a family. If you’re interested in outdoor activities, it’s the place
résumé • Irl received his bachelor’s degree in business from University of Illinois. • After college he went to work for Arthur Andersen. • Joined Peabody Energy in 1979. • Held the CEO position at Peabody Energy for 15 years. • 2008: Awarded the Order of Lincoln Medallion. www.pinckneyville.com 25
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lisa Mayo was born and raised in San Diego, but the California native now feels like she has roots in Pinckneyville. Most of Alisa’s adult life has been about nurturing children or helping young people. She moved from San Diego to Prescott, Arizona, at the age of 20 to help her parents with a national help hotline for troubled youth and a home for runaway girls. Eighteen months later, she returned to San Diego and worked as a live-in nanny. During that time she met her husband, Scott, who was stationed at a naval base in the city. After his discharge from the Navy, the two decided to move back to Scott’s home state of Illinois so they could afford for Alisa to stay home with the children when they started their family. The Mayos first moved to Belleville, but when Scott landed a job with a railroad
a Closer look US Youth Soccer, the nation’s largest youth sports organization, celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2009. The Game for All Kids!® exploded from 100,000 players in 1974 to over 1 million in the early ’90s. Today, US Youth Soccer registers over 3.2 million players annually, ages 5 to 19, through 55 US Youth Soccer State Associations. Source: www.usyouthsoccer.org
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company, they got the opportunity to rent a nice home in Pinckneyville, which was centrally located to the rail yards. “For the same amount of money we left a rough neighborhood in Belleville and came to a nice house with a fenced yard,” Alisa said. “It’s easy to get lost in a big city and there’s no accountability,” she continued. “Out here, I like it more because you have to be true to yourself and what you believe. My adjustment was mostly within myself, not with finding enough to do. I had everything I wanted — a nice house, three kids, and our marriage. I’m very happy that I have all of this in a small town. It would be a lot harder in a big city, struggling with traffic and prices.” While Alisa had what she wanted for herself, there was something she wanted for her children that Pinckneyville didn’t provide. She had seen how good soccer was for her nieces, nephews, and the children she cared for as a nanny, and she wanted her own children to have the chance to play. She and some friends started driving to Carbondale on Saturdays so their kids could play, but the distance made them wish for something closer to home. “The more we talked about it, the more we kept hearing people say that they wished we had something here. I thought to myself, ‘Oh, it can’t be that hard,’” she said, smiling and rolling her eyes. “I was clueless.” After asking a lot of questions, Alisa was given the telephone number for the Illinois
Youth Soccer Association. They mailed her a packet of information to initiate what ultimately became the Perry County Soccer League. While it took a lot of effort, she is quick to point out that she didn’t have to shoulder the load alone. “People started hearing about it and they would call to find out how they could help,” she related. “Businesses called and said they
“I’ll never forget the day I got the phone call and was told we were up to 225. I was floored by that.” would sponsor teams or do whatever we needed before we even had our first board meeting. Once the word got around, the community was really great with support, both financially and by helping out. “When I first started with this soccer league, I didn’t know that it would be what it is today,” she confessed. “I thought maybe we would get about 100 kids, and I’ll never forget the day I got the phone call and was told we were up to 225. I was floored by that.” Alisa headed up the soccer league for the first four years before handing the reins over to friends. The mom who used to drive 35 miles to take her kids to soccer now has a short walk down the street to get to the fields, and hundreds of people in the area are getting to enjoy Saturday morning soccer close to home. All it took was someone to get the ball rolling.
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hen Peg Doughty came to Pinckneyville in 1952 with her husband, Alfred, she had no idea that over 35 years later they would be running a bed and breakfast. At that time, Alfred had just graduated from veterinary school at the University of Missouri. Known to the community as “Doc Doughty,” he worked as a vet in the area for 23 years. “He was a great vet, especially with horses,” Mrs. Doughty remembered. She was quite busy with horses herself in those days, as she raised and sold Arabian horses at their home for many years. In 1975, Dr. Doughty retired from veterinary practice and got into mine construction, ultimately landing a job as a coal miner. For Mrs. Doughty, his retirement from veterinary medicine left a void. “That put me out of work, so I got a job as a coal miner too,” she said. She worked in the mines for about 15 years before retiring. After Dr. Doughty’s career as a miner also concluded, he took a course in bed and breakfast operation and began making renovations to their home in Pinckneyville, which they opened as the Oxbow Bed and Breakfast. Success came early, as a local factory began installing new equipment from Europe shortly thereafter. Mrs. Doughty recalls that in the early days of the business it wasn’t uncommon to have a house full of men from Holland.
Mrs. Doughty recalls that in the early days of the business it wasn’t uncommon to have a house full of men from Holland. Mrs. Doughty has continued to operate the Oxbow Bed and Breakfast since her husband’s passing in 2005. The business still showcases much of his handiwork, including handmade beds with their signature oxbow incorporated into the framework. The rooms, apartments, and parlor area display many beautiful antiques and range in style from classic to rustic, while the recently renovated cottage is of more modern decor. One of Mrs. Doughty’s barns includes an inground swimming pool, and the loft is now a hall suitable for large parties or meetings. Mrs. Doughty says that today much of her business comes from hunters and shooters visiting the area, although she does have some guests who come to Southern Illinois to tour the local wineries. Regardless of whether guests are on the wine trail or the game trail, the Oxbow Bed and Breakfast provides an environment that will make them feel right at home.
Giving His W
Best Sh t
hen Stu Wright moved his family back to Illinois over 35 years ago, he did so to give his children a better life. In the years that followed, and with the help of a great mentor, he turned his interest in firearms and competitive shooting into a Pinckneyville-based business with a customer base that includes elite shooters from all over the world. Now that his kids are grown and
Southern Illinois and settled in Pinckneyville. He says the move was primarily because of the school system. “I haven’t regretted that move at all,” Wright said. “The kids love it here, and as far as educational opportunities and other opportunities for sports or hunting, this has been an ideal place to raise kids. The kids in this town don’t realize just how lucky they’ve got it; they grow up together and get a real feeling of belonging someplace.” While working at the Burning Star 4 coal mine, Wright cultivated his enjoyment of firearms and shooting, getting familiar with trap shooting and continuing to refurbish guns. Then, a man named Valley West introduced him to Herb Orre. For trap shooters and Winchester aficionados, Herb Orre is a legend. Orre led the Winchester custom shop for many years, and he was involved in Winchester’s groundbreaking research on shotgun chokes. After leaving Winchester, Orre opened his own shop, specializing in the repair and modification of high-end, competitive shotguns. Wright began taking guns that needed repair to Orre’s shop
The kids in this town don’t realize just how lucky they’ve got it; they grow up together and get a real feeling of belonging someplace.” his business is thriving, Wright is giving back to the community and the shooting sports by mentoring Pinckneyville’s youth in a discipline that greatly enriches their lives. Born and raised in Michigan, Stu Wright first came to Illinois to study animal husbandry at Southern Illinois University. It was there that he met a local young woman named Sharon Purcell, and his marriage to her gave him a lifelong connection to the Southern Illinois area. In 1972, the Wright family came back to
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in Ohio, and ultimately ended up becoming the master gunsmith’s pupil. “I was his only student,” Wright said. “I guess I was the only guy who had enough brass to ask him if he would teach me how to do his thing. “The last thing he taught me before he passed away in 1985 was how to install, and the formulas for installing, these trap chokes of his,” he continued. “That led to my development of my own line of choke tubes in the mid ’90s, and now we sell them all over the country.” After Orre’s passing, Wright purchased all his old shop fixtures. Shooters from all over the country suddenly looked to the coal miner from Pinckneyville as the man to fill the gap Orre had left behind. Wright has established himself as one of the premier sources for restoration and repair of both antique guns and high-end competitive shotguns. His client list includes shooters from all over the globe. In 2002, Wright received a call from the sponsor of the high school’s FFA chapter, who said that his group had been invited to participate in a clay target competition at Rend Lake Shooting Complex. He asked for help in getting them prepared. Stu agreed to give him a hand.
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“I got his kids together, and I instructed them in how to shoot trap,” he said. “We had two teams, and they took first and third places. The kids were excited, but the competition was only once each year. There was no real organization to it, so I began looking around at other avenues of competition.” He got the kids involved in the Scholastic Clay Target Program, a team competition format. Wright’s team sponsored events for schools from the area, ultimately building
a small conference of high school shooting teams and adding an individual competition component. The platform and the events have been a big success. Upperclassmen in the program can now experience other shooting disciplines such as sporting clays and skeet. Wright hopes to establish traveling teams in both disciplines and to produce more well-rounded shooters prepared to compete for college scholarships. The first female shooter on his team has been offered scholarships in top shooting schools, and he is tuning a young man on the team to compete for a scholarship at Texas A&M. “When you see all of these kids out there with their coaches, parents, and grandparents, it is a really warm feeling,” Wright said. “You take somebody out there that has never held a shotgun or done any real shooting, and in six
months they break 23 of 25 targets. Then you get to see the grin on their face.” The PCHS shooting team has established a tradition of giving successful shooters a badge of honor. The first time a shooter breaks all 25 targets in a round, Stu shoots his or her hat. So if you see kids walking around Pinckneyville with tattered caps full of tiny holes, you can rest assured that they are proudly displaying proof that they learned to shoot “the Wright way.”
Life in the Fast Lane
or a high school athlete — any athlete — the odds against having an undefeated season are so high that it would seem to be an impossible dream. Apparently Pinckneyville track star Kimberly Spencer doesn’t pay much attention to the odds, because she pulled it off — four years in a row. With the exception of a controversial finish at the state final during her sixth grade year, Kimberly was undefeated in the 100-meter dash throughout junior high. She went undefeated in the 100-meter dash throughout her high school career, winning four Class A state championships in the event. She also picked up state championship titles in the 200-meter dash during her junior and senior years. Her collegiate track career has taken off in high gear as well. Kimberly has had a great deal of success, but she seems to relish her victories prior to junior high just as much as any that came later. “I always knew I was fast, because in grade school we would race out to the playground
after lunch, and I always used to beat the boys,” she said with a satisfied grin.
“I always knew I was fast, because in grade school we would race out to the playground after lunch, and I always used to beat the boys.” Kimberly has moved on from high school and now runs for McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, where she is majoring in marketing. Her best event at the collegiate level has been the 60-meter dash, and she is ranked among the top five in the nation. Has she ever had any Olympic dreams? “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s on my mind, but we’ll just have to see what happens. I think it’s mainly in everyone else’s minds that they want to see me go.”
While others may have specific goals in mind for her future, Kimberly says she just takes her running success as it comes. Looking back on her track career at PCHS, it’s unbelievable how much success she has achieved already. Unbelievable, that is, to everyone except that playground full of embarrassed boys back in grade school — she made believers out of them a long time ago.
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interaction with others and setting goals for themselves. Red Hawk Golf Club owner Dan Breslin has brought First Tee to the youth of Pinckneyville through a six-week program in the spring and a number of summer camps. He’s also looking forward to partnering with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and other youthoriented groups. “It’s not just learning how to play golf — how to hold a club, how to stand, or how to swing,” said Breslin. “Kids get self-enrichment programs that are very helpful in their lives.” For more information, call Red Hawk at 618-357-8712.
Alive and Kicking
Saturday mornings in the spring and fall, a once-empty site on Alyssum Road in Pinckneyville swarms with hundreds of running children and cheering adults. This fivefield complex plays host to the Perry County Soccer League, which allows kids ages 5 through high school the chance to enjoy soccer and to meet new friends from across the county. The seven-week spring season starts in April, and the fall season begins the first weekend after Labor Day. Games are played on Saturdays, and teams practice throughout the week. For more information on the PCSL, contact Jay Ray or Michelle Clark at 618-357-8309.
There are two on and two out, and the home team’s down by a run as their star hitter comes to the plate. The pitcher goes into his windup, the batter tightens his grip, the coach crosses his fingers, and the right fielder throws a rock at his cousin in the stands. It’s Little League ball, and summer just wouldn’t be summer without it. Each year, Pinckneyville’s Little League brings the national pastime to boys and girls ages 5 to 17. The league utilizes five fields at the city park and offers both local and traveling teams. The season runs from May through July. For more information, contact Rhonda Shubert at 618-317-7302 or Dave Sanders at 618-559-3566.
Golf Skills and Life Skills First Tee is a national organization for the promotion of affordable accessibility for juniors to the wonderful game of golf. Designed for children ages 7–17, the curriculum includes golf instruction plus the teaching of critical life skills. Kids learn valuable lessons about
On the Gridiron The Jr. Panther Athletic Club, part of the Southwestern Illinois Youth Football Conference, has brought football to
inckneyville Public Library is happy to present the Illinois Library Association’s iREAD summer reading program to area children. The program, which begins each year in July, is designed to help children ages 5 through 10 get excited about reading and learning. Once a week, children read a story and then participate in activities tied to the year’s theme, which is based on topics children find interesting, such as traveling, sports, animals, or space exploration. Participants are encouraged to keep a log of books they read on their own. At the end of the program, prizes are awarded, and each child is given a book to keep. The program typically has around 25 participants each year, so it is helpful if children pre-register in June. For more information, call the library at 618-357-2410 or e-mail Pinckneyville@shawls.lib.il.us. 30 Foundation for Pinckneyville
Come on in, the Water’s Fine Pinckneyville’s competitive youth swimming program is held at the town’s public pool from June to August. Six different age brackets start with the 6-and-under crowd and go up to 17 years of age. Competition includes meets in Pinckneyville and in communities in the surrounding area. The success of the program
“Kids get self-enrichment programs that are very helpful in their lives.”
A Storied Summer
Pinckneyville boys since 2005. The program is broken into four age groups ranging from 6 years old to eighth grade. Practices begin the first week of August, and the season runs through October, with a schedule that includes four away games and four games on the PCHS football field. For more information, call Craig Lazenby at 618-713-7087.
inspired a high school swim team at PCHS, and many of the participants go on to compete year-round through other venues. To learn more about the swimming programs that are available, contact Cynthia Heisner at the pool at 618-357-5626.
Head, Hands, Heart, and Health
or over a century, Perry County 4H has helped boys and girls ages 5 to 18 develop skills they can use for a lifetime. With traditional 4H clubs as well as specialty clubs based on interests such as horseback riding or supporting the local humane shelter, participants have over 200 different projects to choose from, including raising livestock, photography, cooking, journalism, robotics, and many others. 4H is also involved in activities at the Manor at Mason Woods, an assisted living facility in Pinckneyville. The children raise a garden for the manor and join residents in activities like sewing and making cookies. The partnership has been a huge success, bringing joy to both the tenants and the kids. New members and leaders are always welcome. For more information, call Rhonda Shubert at 618-357-2126.
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and Outdoor Life
he patchwork of agriculture, woodlands, and reclaimed mine ground surrounding Pinckneyville provides ideal habitat for wildlife and creates a paradise for outdoorsmen. Hunting and fishing aren’t just sports in Pinckneyville — they’re part of the lifestyle and culture.
Hunting and Fishing Southern Illinois is known nationwide as a deer hunting destination, and Perry County’s whitetail herd lives up to that reputation. Hunters harvest plenty of venison and pursue exceptional trophy-class bucks. The county also has a thriving turkey population that can be hunted in both the spring and fall, and Pinckneyville has an active National Wild Turkey Federation chapter. The waterfowl hunting is outstanding, with hunters enjoying the chance to harvest ducks and resident Canada geese as well as migrating snows and specklebellies. Small game, upland game, and predator hunting are long-standing traditions, and many of the area’s creeks and ponds are prime places for trapping.
For gun-dog owners, numerous field trial associations provide competition for many different breeds.
Southern Illinois is known nationwide as a deer hunting destination, and Perry County’s whitetail herd lives up to that reputation. Fishermen will find Pinckneyville a great place to wet a line. The area’s reclaimed strip mining cuts, ponds, lakes, and creeks provide a variety of fishing experiences for a number of different species. Southern Illinois has prime largemouth bass fishing, along with excellent opportunities for crappie, bluegill, smallmouth bass, catfish, and more. Trout fishing is also available at
the World Shooting Complex in nearby Sparta, Illinois. There are a number of public hunting and fishing destinations within easy driving distance of Pinckneyville, including Rend Lake, Kinkaid Fish and Wildlife Area, Crab Orchard Lake, Burning Star 5 Wildlife Management Area, Carlyle Lake, and others. But for Pinckneyville residents, the epicenter of outdoor activity is Pyramid State Park.
Pyramid State Park Located about six miles southwest of Pinckneyville, Pyramid State Park is the largest state recreation area in Illinois and is divided into five primary units plus one satellite facility. The five primary units in the Pinckneyville area cover over 19,000 acres, almost 98 percent of which is accessible for hunting and fishing. The park has diverse habitat, including over 3,500 acres of timber, nearly 4,500 acres of crop fields, almost 2,000 acres of lakes and wetlands, and over 8,800 acres of grasslands. Hunting opportunities within Pyramid include deer, turkey, waterfowl, dove,
Pyramid: a Quick look • The five primary units in the Pinckneyville area cover more than 19,000 acres • 3,500 acres of timber • 4,500 acres of crop fields • 2,000 acres of lakes and wetlands • 8,800 acres of grasslands
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woodcock, rabbit, furbearers, quail, and squirrel. There’s even a 3D archery range for bow hunters to hone their shooting skills. For fisherman, the park has hike-in fishing on smaller waters and large lakes with convenient boat ramps. Aside from traditional Southern Illinois fish species, anglers also have the chance to try their luck for walleye, muskies, and northern pike in specific lakes. Pyramid plays host to a number of field trial events, including the German Pointing Dog National Championships. The NGPDA first brought their championship to Pyramid’s Denmark Unit in 2004. It’s a horseback event, and it takes a large facility with ample grasslands and fields to trial these long-ranging dogs. The association is very happy with the grounds, and members say that park management has improved the facility for them tremendously since they first came. “I like running here,” said competitor Bill Mengert of New Jersey. “The main courses are pretty nice, you can see the dogs, there
Pyramid has a number of designated camping sites, including convenient places for trailer-campers and hike-in campgrounds for adventurous types. are lots of objectives, and the people here are nice too.” Beyond hunting and fishing, the park also provides a great place for families to enjoy nature. Pyramid has a number of designated camping sites, including convenient places for trailer-campers and hike-in campgrounds for adventurous types. There are over 16 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding throughout the park, so it’s a great place to explore.
Leading the Way
in High School Fishing
ompetitive fishing as an IHSA-sanctioned activity became a reality for high schools around the state in 2009, but in Pinckneyville, school-sanctioned fishing is nothing new. PCHS already had an established bass fishing club several years before the IHSA got involved. Dennis Heape, whose son attends PCHS, got the idea to form a high school club in early 2006 when The Bass Federation (TBF) held a youth tournament in Illinois. He wanted to get a few kids into that tournament, so he contacted his friend Chad Morganthaler, a professional fisherman, to help him teach them how to compete at that level. Heape’s son, Ty, ultimately won the TBF state tournament, and the larger PCHS club idea sprung from that success. “We decided that if we could do this for two or three, we could do it for more,” Heape said. FLW Tour angler and Pinckneyville native Derek Jenkel joined them in the effort, and they began looking locally for anglers with boats who would be willing to take kids out on the water. Almost everyone they called agreed to help. Armed with an idea and some resources, they approached the school administration, who quickly embraced the concept. “I believe that when kids are involved they’re more apt to do well in school,” said PCHS Principal John Green, an early proponent of the program.
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Whether it’s a picnic and a hike, a weekend camping trip, or a week-long hunting and fishing adventure, Pyramid State Park has something for anyone who loves to be outdoors. For more information and regulations, call the park office at 618-357-2574 or consult the Illinois DNR Web site at http://dnr.state.il.us.
“These kids are hardcore and extremely competitive, but … they’re really willing to share.”
The club kicked off in 2006. Yearly activities begin with classroom instruction, followed by time on the water to apply what they’ve learned. Each year they have a number of internal tournaments; the team that will represent them in IHSA state competition is chosen based on club tournament data. “Probably the neatest part of the program has been watching kids who started with some equipment and an idea of how to catch fish from a farm pond show up the next year with not only an increased quantity of equipment, but a better understanding of how to use it on the larger lakes,” Jenkel said. “Seeing them take the information we’ve given them and apply it correctly has been really cool, and the level of competition to which they’ve taken it has been surprising. “These kids are hard-core and extremely competitive, but what you also find with them is that they’re really willing to share with each other how they’ve been successful. In the adult fishing world, that doesn’t happen much.”
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And That’s the Way It
Perry County Jail Museum 108 W. Jackson St. • 618-357-2225
uilt in 1871, the old Perry County Jail building housed the county sheriff and the incarcerated for over 100 years. This preserved and restored structure, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now exists to educate visitors about the history of the county. Thanks to the Perry County Historical Society and thousands of hours of volunteer service each year, the site brings together historical artifacts and antiques from all over the county to give future generations a look at the lifestyles of the past. Downstairs, the old cell block is still in place, complete with the ominous, riveted grillwork that kept prisoners secured. In many of the cells, visitors can still see artwork of surprising quality that was left behind by the captive artists who stayed there. One of the cells displays various types of evidence kept from cases long ago. Aside from the jail itself, the facility also has theme rooms with relics that give glimpses into the past from a variety of perspectives. The school room reconstructs the interior of a one-room schoolhouse like those used in rural sections of the county “back in the day.” There is a period bedroom, and the Perry County Room displays early maps of the area and its townships. The place that once housed female prisoners now celebrates women of distinction, and it’s decked out with antiques that relate to women’s life in times past. Other displays include old-fashioned toys, antique agricultural tools, military memorabilia, and other treasures that appeal to a variety of interests. There is also a 295-volume library devoted to the Lincoln presidency, and custom quilting is demonstrated each Monday. Located in downtown Pinckneyville, the museum is open Mondays, Wednesday mornings, and by appointment. Members of the Perry County Historical Society are on hand to guide visitors and tell the stories that go along with the displays, and the museum is qualified to award scout badges. It’s a great place to learn, and the only jail you’ll ever be glad you’re in.
Melodies PCHS Music Makers http://pchspanthers.com/packs/ music_makers/per_dates.shtml.
or more than 20 years, the Music Makers program at Pinckneyville Community High School has utilized the many talents of the student body to bring annual stage shows to the community. Past productions include classics such as My Fair Lady, The Music Man, The Wizard of Oz, and many others. The 2009 production of Anything Goes involved the efforts of over 80 students, who participated in every facet of the show from the pit band, to set construction, to the cast and crew. Musical direction is provided by veteran PCHS fine arts instructors Stephen Cannedy and Cathy Cunningham, and the program receives financial support from throughout the community. Performances take place each year in March.
a rt s & h e r i ta g e
Over 30 Years in the Spotlight Pyramid Players www.pyramidplayers.org
Creativity, Craftsmanship, and Culture
perating as an extension of the Illinois State Museum, the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center provides art lovers the opportunity to view and purchase some of the state’s most finely crafted works. The center’s two galleries create the perfect environment to appreciate Illinois art at its best. The Members Gallery features the works of juried artisans, and exhibits are changed quarterly so local enthusiasts can have diverse experiences. The Illinois State Museum’s Southern Illinois Art Gallery brings exhibits from the state museum’s magnificent collection of fine and decorative art to the Rend Lake area. Also located within the center, the Artisans Shop gives visitors the opportunity to purchase the works of skilled artisans from all over the state. Artists showcased in the shop must be chosen by a biannual jury, which ensures that
collectors will find only quality pieces fashioned with the highest level of craftsmanship. The center also organizes a number of cultural and educational events. Each year during the final weekend of September, the Illinois Art and Wine Festival features a multitude of artisan demonstrations, local specialty foods, live music, and the products of over a dozen different wineries. The facility plays host to art classes for children in the summer, and participating artisans come to the center throughout the year to offer workshops that demonstrate the techniques they use to create their artwork and crafts. This cultural destination is only 22 miles east of Pinckneyville on Highway 154 and is a stone’s throw from Exit 77 on Interstate 57. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.
Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center 14967 Gun Creek Trail, Whittington • 618-629-2220 • www.museum.state.il.us/ismsites/so-il/
rian Summers was a Benton High School student and Allan Kimball a freshman at SIU-Carbondale when they put together their first show in 1977. That performance of the musical Godspell took place in the Benton High School commons area. The following year, they did a production of Narnia in an abandoned theater in Benton. Brian was a student at Rend Lake College in 1979, and the college allowed them to use its theater that year for their presentation of Cinderella. The Pyramid Players have been there ever since, and the two friends who started it all continue to direct each performance. The Pyramid Players have something for performers and audiences of all ages. Their adult productions, such as Big River and Into the Woods, are comprised of performers who are high school age and up. They also have children’s productions for kids in second grade through junior high, which include musicals like Willy Wonka and Mulan. They are an all-volunteer group, and all donations go directly toward production costs.
Medieval Christmas to All Experience a holiday show with 15th-century flair and a meal fit for a king.
34 Foundation for Pinckneyville
Madrigal Society of Southern Illinois Paul Pyatt: 618-357-3746 • Mark McDaniel: 618-357-2165
ach year at Christmastime, the Madrigal Society of Southern Illinois allows music lovers the chance to experience a holiday show with 15th-century flair and a meal fit for a king. Set in a medieval castle atmosphere, the performance begins with a sit-down dinner complete with servers and a royal court arrangement. Vocalists in period costumes then provide the entertainment, singing a cappella music in four-part harmony. Of course, no court is complete without a jester, so the evening also includes lots of laughter. The society begins their yearly practice schedule in early September and typically gives two or three performances in various locations each December. The group contains of 16 main singers who make up four full quartets, with the ages of the performers ranging from teens to those in their 80s. They are an independent, not-for-profit organization, and society member Paul Pyatt says their sole purpose in doing these performances is that they love to sing. Their claim to fame is a 1996 performance at Carnegie Hall, which they did in conjunction with a number of groups from around the United States.
calendar of events
Pinckneyville! ď€´ J anuary
ď€´ J une â€“ S eptember
Mystery Theatre Dinner
Farmers Market Courthouse Lawn
ď€´ M arch German Pointing Dog National Championship Pyramid State Park
ď€´ J uly St. Brunoâ€™s Parish Picnic
PCHS Music Makers annual production
National Skeet Trap Championship
ď€´ A pril
World Shooting & Recreation Complex, Sparta
Girlsâ€™ High School Softball Tournament Southern Illinois Softball Showcase
ď€´ M ay Perry County Demolition Derby Perry County Fairgrounds
World Cup Challenge & SASS Cowboy Action Championship
Bananas and Coconuts Luau Scramble Red Hawk Golf Club
Senior Menâ€™s Tour Red Hawk Golf Club
Family Night in the Park Pinckneyville Fairgrounds
ď€´ O ctober
World Shooting & Recreation Complex, Sparta
ď€´ A ugust
Perry County Demolition Derby
Birds and Bees Golf Tournament
Grand American Trap Championship
Red Hawk Golf Club
World Shooting & Recreation Complex, Sparta
Pinckneyville Hospital Health Fair Pinckneyville Fairgrounds
Boy Scouts World Shooting & Recreation Complex, Sparta
American Threshermanâ€™s Annual Steam, Gas & Threshing Show Perry County Fairgrounds
Sugar & Spice, Texas Holdâ€™em, and Seniorâ€™s Mixed Tour Scrambles Red Hawk Golf Club
Pinckneyville Community Yard Sale
ď€´ S eptember SASS U.S. Open Cowboy Action Championship
ď€´ J une Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce Golf Scramble Red Hawk Golf Club
Collectorâ€™s Caravan Pinckneyville Square
Fore on the Beach Scramble/ Miller Lite Scramble Red Hawk Golf Club
Perry County Fair Billie Ray Jr. and IIAJC Qualifier Junior Golf Tournaments
World Shooting & Recreation Complex, Sparta
Freshmen Volleyball Tournament Illinois Art and Wine Festival Southern Illinois Art and Artisan Center
Perry County Fairgrounds
American Threshermanâ€™s Annual Fall Harvest Show Perry County Fairgrounds
Ghosts and Goblins Red Hawk Golf Club
Mardi Gras Halloween Celebration PCHS Band & Field Competition Quillman Field, Pinckneyville High School
ď€´ N o v ember St. Brunoâ€™s Silent Auction, Dinner and Dance
ď€´ D ecember Duster Thomas Hoops Classic Thomas Gymnasium
Madrigal Society of Southern Illinois Productions Throughout the area
Gramaliel Cup Championship Sporting Clays & Midwest Skeet Classic World Shooting & Recreation Complex, Sparta
Fall Classic Trap Shoot World Shooting & Recreation Complex, Sparta
Chili Dip Red Hawk Golf Club
Old Tyme Ice Cream Social with a Gospel Sing
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Carving out a Community A
ccording to the 1883 edition of Combined History of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, Illinois, John Flack and his family settled in an area known as Four Mile Prairie in 1799. Tradition has it that they found only one other white family in the county at the time — the Cox family. As is often the case with early pioneers, it is unknown where the Cox family originally came from or what eventually happened to them. The precinct that these two families lived in so long ago ultimately became known as the Pinckneyville Precinct, and such are the beginnings of this proud community in Southern Illinois. Little is recorded concerning the years between 1800 and 1820, although it is believed that a man named Bates, or Bets, lived in the area late in that time period. Later settlers found improvements he had made to the bank of Beaucoup Creek, but the area was abandoned. Once again, it is unknown exactly what became of this industrious pioneer, but it was said that around 1818 or 1819 he returned to the area one night from a journey to Kaskaskia with severe cuts and wounds that ultimately took his life.
The area’s first real growth spurt took place in the late 1820s, with an influx of settlers coming from surrounding counties and a number of Southern states. The precinct was established as the seat of justice when Perry County was incorporated in 1827. That same year, the community’s first dry goods store was opened by Charles Glover, and H.B. Jones began operating the first post office. The settlement really began to take shape in 1828 with the construction of the county’s first courthouse on the town square and the cutting of new roads in the surrounding area. By 1834, the area had a blacksmith, a shoemaker, a wagon-maker, gristmills, an officially licensed tavern, and its first jailhouse. The next important era for Perry County and Pinckneyville began in the 1850s. The Illinois Central Railroad was being constructed, and the coal mining industry began to take shape in the area. The city of Pinckneyville was incorporated and elected its first trustees in 1857, making it one of the oldest incorporated cities in the state. As the years passed, the town developed greatly in the area between the site of the courthouse and the railroad. Finally, in 1889, the city reorganized its government and elected Joseph L. Murphy as its first mayor. More than a century later, Pinckneyville continues onward. Within the town’s current residents lies that same spirit of progress that inspired the settlers of the early 1800s to carve out a community on the landscape of Illinois. While they look forward to the future, the townspeople of Pinckneyville can also look back and be inspired by the pioneers who literally put their town on the map. Sources: Special thanks to Bill Timpner. Combined History of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, Illinois: J.L. McDonough & Co., Philadelphia, 1883; www.perrycountyil.org/history/
inckneyville Precinct takes its name from the county seat. The county seat received its name from the act of incorporating the county, which provided in its second section: ‘that the seat of justice, when established in the county, should be known as Pinckneyville.’” This quote from Combined History of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, Illinois explains how the name “Pinckneyville” was applied to the town in 1827, but it still doesn’t 36 Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce
explain why that specific name was chosen in the first place. Many of the towns and counties in Illinois are named after war heroes or early American dignitaries. Perry County, for example, is named after Commodore Oliver Perry, who won a significant naval victory for the United States in the War of 1812. Likewise, the name Pinckneyville was chosen as a means of honoring one of America’s great historical figures. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was born in South Carolina in the 1740s and educated in the most prestigious schools in England. The Revolutionary War began a few years after his return to America, and he served in the colonial army as a direct aid to Gen. George Washington. His close association with Washington made him an
important delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia and led to his appointment as U.S. minister to France during what became known to history as the “XYZ Affair.” Pinckney also served as the governor of South Carolina, and he was named the federalist candidate for president of the United States in both the 1804 and 1808 elections. While many visitors have difficulty spelling (and pronouncing) it, the town of Pinckneyville is still proud of its name and the man who inspired it. Sources: Special thanks to Bill Timpner. Combined History of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, Illinois: J.L. McDonough & Co., Philadelphia, 1883; www.americanrevolution.com/ CharlesCotesworthPinckney.htm; http://colonialhall.com/pinckneycc/pinckneycc.php; www.perrycountyil.org/history/
Digging Into the History of Local
ecause of the demand for wood during the Civil War and the lack of trees on the prairie, the Illinois Central Railroad started converting many of their wood-burning steam engines into coal burners in the 1860s. Coal had been used primarily in the blacksmithing trade up to that point, but once the railroads became involved, the mining industry in Southern Illinois began to boom. That growth spurt reached Pinckneyville in the 1870s, and the town’s association with coal mining has been strong ever since. The methods used by the earliest underground miners were labor-intensive and often life-threatening. They started by picking a groove 36 inches into the wall at the bottom of the coal face. Next, they used hand-drills to bore holes of the same depth into the wall and rammed charges of black powder deep into each one. The holes were repacked with clay, save a small ignition channel, and squib charges were placed in the channels as primers. The fuses were lit and miners ran for their lives as the squibs ignited the larger charges and blasted coal off the face of the wall. The chunks were then hand-loaded with shovels or forks onto mule-drawn coal cars to be hauled out of the mine. Life in the mines was dark, dirty, and dangerous. Miners were paid by the load, rather than by the hour, so time spent installing props for the roof was considered “dead time.” Roof bolting to protect miners from falling top didn’t come about until the World War II era. There were no mine inspectors at all until the mid-1880s, and the first real laws protecting miners only appeared in 1910, after several major tragedies created death tolls that couldn’t be ignored. An unusual incident in one of Pinckneyville’s earliest mines demonstrates just how dangerous the profession was. On January 5, 1880, Joseph Neising drowned in the Benhard Blumemine, which was situated adjacent to
Beaucoup Creek just north of town. The pressure of backwaters from the flooded creek caused an opening that allowed water to pour down into the mine 60 feet below. The mine filled with water so quickly that the air in the tunnels within was compressed, creating a geyser of powder over 100 feet high at the shaft.
Life in the mines was dark, dirty, and dangerous. Neising was the only miner who didn’t escape; the circumstances of his becoming trapped are unknown. The mine remained flooded for 39 years until J.C. Neising, the son of the man killed, used his influence as superintendent of a nearby mine to bring in pumps and remove the water. He was able to recover his father’s body and buried him in the St. Bruno Catholic Cemetery in Pinckneyville. In the early 1900s, the industry continued to grow rapidly in the area. One of the more commonly known names in Pinckneyville mining history is The Pyramid Coal Company, which opened a surface-mining operation south of town in 1926. That mine was purchased in 1950 by Truax-Traer, which had the claim to fame of using steam shovels from the Panama Canal project in its earlier strip-mining operations. The mine ultimately closed in 1960, and the ground was reclaimed. Southern Illinois University used over 900 acres for research until 1968, when the area became the original portion of Pyramid State Park. Southwest of town, the Captain Surface Mine opened in 1964. This mine was unique in that it utilized grants to do research and experiments to advance surface-mining technology. Perhaps Captain’s greatest innovation was the giant strip-mining shovel built for it by the Marion Shovel Company in 1965, which had the distinction of being the largest land machine in
the world. The moving apparatus for the machine was identical to the one now used by NASA to move space shuttles to the launching pad. Consolidated Coal Company purchased Truax-Traer in 1972 and started a number of mines in Southern Illinois in the mid1970s, including one northwest of Pinckneyville. Consolidated is still in existence, although it has operated no mines in the Pinckneyville area since it closed operations east of town in the 1990s. Many other mines have also operated in the Pinckneyville area over the last 150 years, but today there are only two working mines left in the neighborhood, both owned by Knight Hawk Coal Company. But the coal industry is ready to stage a comeback, and with new permits being issued for mining operations in the area, Pinckneyville hopes to dig in once again.
Enlightening Information We often take our lights for granted, but to a coal miner, his lights are his life. From the 1850s to 1900, miners used oil lamps, which were designed to use rapeseed oil but were often fueled by axle grease cut with coal oil. After 1900, miners switched to lights fueled by carbide, a man-made chemical that, when mixed with water, produces flammable acetylene gas. In the mid-1920s, a closed, battery-operated light, invented and produced by Thomas Edison, revolutionized lighting. The lights and batteries used in the mines remained virtually unchanged until the last few years, when developments in lithium technology made the batteries smaller.
BlueofBloods Pinckneyville B
lue Blood: A term referring to someone of noble or aristocratic descent. But in Pinckneyville, it means a PCHS Panthers fan. It’s said that the people of Pinckneyville bleed Panther (Columbia) Blue, and that’s especially true when it comes to basketball. The community’s reputation as a basketball town even drew the attention of Sports Illustrated writer Gerald Holland back in 1959; Holland did much of the research for his article “Renaissance in Pinckneyville” while eating pie at Luke’s Café on the square. Over 50 years later, I sat in Dixie’s Cup Café on the south end of town doing my own research on Pinckneyville’s basketball history. 38 Foundation for Pinckneyville
The gentleman who sat next to me was Elvin J. Rigdon. “Rig,” as he’s known around town, was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a friend of basketball in 1980 because of his longtime dedication as a PCHS basketball fan. The first time we met, I explained that Coach Corn had directed me to him. “Oh, Coach Corn,” he said, smiling beneath the bill of his Pinckneyville Panthers baseball hat. “I sent him a Christmas present for 28 years in a row.” Rigdon’s family moved to Pinckneyville in the early 1920s when he was only 9 years old, and he still remembers his childhood days watching the team play upstairs in the opera house on the square. “They didn’t have many bleachers up there, and people mostly stood,” he remembered. “It doubled as a skating rink and a dance hall back then.” The high school’s first real taste of basketball tournament success didn’t come until 1935. During that year, under the direction of Coach Al Kish, the team won their first sectional title before losing to Hillsboro in the super-sectional game. It would be another 12 years before they made their next appearance, which started an amazing string of seasons for a now-legendary coach.
Coach Thomas Era: 1938–1957 Merrill “Duster” Thomas moved from junior varsity coach to the varsity coaching position in 1938. While the records don’t show tournament success for his teams during the early to mid ’40s, the program was growing stronger. One of the players of that era, Gene Stotlar, went on to be a national standout in his playing time at SIU. Don Craig, who played for Thomas during his high school career, says that those early 1940s teams were good, but the coach had to adjust in order to compete with the larger schools. “He was a smart, smart coach,” Craig said. “Probably his best trait was having the ability to figure out what to do and make adjustments.”
Thomas had a conservative coaching style that emphasized fundamentals. Rigdon describes the coach’s sideline demeanor as “pretty cool and collected.” His teams walked the ball up the court, didn’t use a full-court press, and made very few mistakes. The coach knew the rules inside and out, and he often tested his players — as well as referees — to make sure they knew them, too. Thomas was also stern, holding a strict curfew and no-girlfriends policy in addition to insisting that players’ grades remained high in a time when the Stanton rules didn’t demand it. “He had a reputation and the players’ respect, so he didn’t have to chew them out much,” Craig recalled. “You didn’t dare stay out late the night before a game because you knew you’d be gone. But he was also a good man, and he never missed church. He had this thing where if we’d win three games in a row, he would buy all of us a burger and Coke at Luke’s after the game. Then he’d do that every game until we lost one.” The Thomas era was one of prosperity. His 1947 team finished third in the state tournament, winning the first two games handily before losing to the Paris team that ultimately became the state champions. Then, in 1948, Pinckneyville finally brought home its first state title in a blowout championship game against Rockford East. Elvin Rigdon was there, watching from a distance. “Did the fans storm the floor when they won, Mr. Rigdon?” I asked, lifting my voice to overcome the noise of the bustling cafe. “No, not really. We were so high up that we couldn’t get down there right away,” he replied. “You know how high the stands are at that gym, right? Well, they put us way up there at the top. There was one game at that tournament when I got to sit down by the court, though, because one of the referees let me use his chair.” “So I’m guessing that you were always nice to referees, or they wouldn’t have taken such good care of you,” I replied. “Well,” he said, looking back down to his plate of food, “I never did get thrown out, anyway.” Coach Thomas took the team back to the Sweet Sixteen six consecutive times from 1951–1956. From 1953–1955 they had three straight third place finishes, losing each time to the team that won the title game. Thomas stepped out of his coaching position in 1957, leaving behind an overall winning percentage
of 0.784, with an incredible 212 wins and 25 losses in his final seven seasons. The gymnasium at the high school is named in his honor.
Coaches Stanton, Willis, and Anderson Eras: 1958–1975 In 1958 the reins were handed over to Don Stanton, a former player for Coach Thomas who had played college ball and been an assistant coach at St. Louis University. Coach Stanton also ran a strictly regimented team, but preferred the fast-paced, running style of play he’d learned in college. K.O. Willis took the head coaching position in 1963 and led the team to a Sweet Sixteen appearance the following year, but they lost in triple overtime to Cobden in the supersectional game. The team returned to the super-sectional again in 1973 under Coach Bill Anderson, losing this time by one point to the Ridgway team that went on to win the state championship.
Coach Corn Era: 1975–2007 The year 1975 marked the beginning of the Coach Dick Corn era. Over the next 32 years, Coach Corn led his team to 708 wins; his 23 Class A regional championships are a state record. The team also appeared in the Sweet Sixteen seven times during his tenure, with the second of those appearances resulting in a second place finish in 1988. Their next trip was in 1994, and Pinckneyville became state
champs once again thanks, in part, to some hot shooting by Shane Hawkins and a buzzerbeater shot by Ryan Bruns in the final seconds of the championship game. “They thought sure that Hawkins would take the shot,” Rigdon said, “but he passed it off to Bruns and there was nobody guarding him.” Ryan Bruns, now part of the coaching staff at PCHS, says that they shouldn’t have been in the situation to need that final shot, but they had let Eureka back into the game. “Everybody on both sides knew who the ball was going to, but three guys collapsed on Shane and I was open — just in the right spot at the right time. At the time I caught the ball I knew it had to be shot. It’s something to get to live a dream at 18 years old.” For Bruns, who grew up in Pinckneyville, playing for Coach Corn and then getting to coach under him was also a dream come true. While Coach Corn could be tough at times, Ryan says it was always meant for their benefit. “There were times at practice after a tough game the night before when you knew you were going to get barked at, so you’d better bring your work boots and get ready for a long day,” he said. “But after a while you came to learn that he was pushing you because he saw the possibilities ahead. He was also really good at motivating players without criticizing in a way that would destroy their psyche.” The team made it back to the state championship game once again in 2001 and took home the trophy with a 27-point victory over Pana. They also played in super-sectionals in 2002, 2004, and 2006, with the final visit resulting in a fourth place finish in the state tournament. Coach Corn retired in 2007, and the gym floor now wears the name “Dick Corn Court” to commemorate his storied career. Considering the team’s noble ancestry, perhaps Pinckneyville basketball fans like Elvin Rigdon truly are “blue bloods” after all. Panther basketball definitely has a rich history, and I would have gotten it all for the price of a plate lunch special had I not opted for that extra piece of pie. www.foundationforpinckneyville.org 39
around the neighborhood
A Great Place
he Pinckneyville housing market offers a variety of options and prices, and since housing costs in Southern Illinois are much lower than in many other parts of the country, the home you thought you could only dream of may be within reach after all. Pinckneyville’s many subdivisions cover a wide span of ages and prices. Some of the town’s earliest subdivisions were started in the 1970s, including areas like Sunset Terrace, Charlotte Hills, Country Club Estates, Imperial Heights, and Oxbow. Others, like Cedar Point, Wildwood, and Huntwood, have been developed since the early 1990s or are currently still in development. Most are laid out in cul-de-sacs or U shapes with no through traffic, and their quiet streets make excellent neighborhoods for growing families. Houses include everything from 1,200-square-foot homes with attached garages in the $60,000 to $90,000 range to 2,500-square-foot executive homes starting at $200,000. There are also still reasonably priced lots available in many of these neighborhoods. Homes in the downtown area also offer variety in their styles and prices. There are many nice homes in town, including a number of bungalows and Victorians. Because of the diversity in age and condition, prices cover a broad spectrum.
40 Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce
Almost 30 percent of Pinckneyville residents are renters, and the city’s rental market includes a surprising number of apartments for a small town. There are many one- and two-bedroom apartments, some of which are less than 10 years old. The newest apartments typically rent for $400 to $450 per month, and other well-maintained apartments in the area are available for around $325 per month. There are also two high-rise apartment buildings in town that have income-based pricing for seniors. Whether you’re buying or renting, Pinckneyville is a great place to stretch your housing dollar without sacrificing comfort. For more information on available properties, contact Place Insurance and Real Estate at 618-357-9391.
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