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Good Living In


West Frankfort

Volume 4 No. 1 Spring 2010

Showcasing the People, Places and Pride of West Frankfort, Illinois

Spring • 2010

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Spring • 2010

Letter from the



osh this magazine is full of memories. Many of them are my memories, but I hope that many of you can relate to them, and they will bring some good feelings to you as well. I'm not sure how many of you have a memory of the New Era Dairy that brings back the feeling of a string of hot sunny days in a childhood summer that seemed it would never end. When I sat at the computer one night, after being in that building for the first time in many years, I could hardly control the thoughts and images that tumbled out so fast that my fingers could barely keep up with my brain. Sherri Murphy shared with us a story about her dad, Ray Maragni, and a memory that became very real one afternoon when he received a phone call out of his past. I loved the story. Things like that just don't happen that often. Charles Bernardoni and his oldest son, Mike, visited with me one evening, and although I was interviewing Charles about his parents restaurant, Big Charlies, the three of us ended up sharing our own memories of the West Frankfort eatery that fed Southern Illinois residents for nearly thirty years. The interview and subsequent story overflow with tidbits of information about West Frankfort, the oral history that can only be salvaged and recorded when someone chooses to share it. I have no idea how many people in West Frankfort have memories of the Heights Bakery, but if we had chosen to, we probably could have filled this issue with nothing but stories of “Johnny's.” The charm of the story as it began to unfold was the examples of his relationship with the little store in the heights. It was a love affair, a constantly changing experiment for him, with failures and successes of the business on it's journey through the years. If only his journey with us had lasted longer. Every time we publish an issue of Good Living in West Frankfort, filled with nostalgia, I always feel, almost with a sense of relief, that we completed a job that needed to be done. It's like, “There, we saved that story. That's another piece of West Frankfort's past that will never be lost.” We also feel a deep gratitude to the West Frankfort businesses who advertise to make these publications possible. I know I talk about that a lot, but it needs to be repeated . This is an expensive publication to produce. They are the ones who pay for them so that you can pick the magazines up for free and share them with anyone you choose. Our business community makes that possible. We are reminding you, so that you can remind them when you see them. Please do.

Gail Rissi Thomas, Publisher Spring • 2010

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Please support our advertisers. They make this magazine possible: Aaron Hopkins, Attorney ....................... pg. 13 All American Hearing 21 BFJ Interiors ........................................... pg. 15 Browning Clark Auto Repair ................... pg. 15 Calico Country Sew & Vac ...................... pg. 17 Coleman-Rhoads ...................................... pg. 17 Dr. Dale Brock, Optometrist, ............. pg. 24 Dr. Seb Pagano Dentistry ................. pg. 4 Dr. Fred Whitlatch, Dentistry, ............. pg. 17 Coleman-Rhoads .................................... pg. 13 First Christian Church ........................... pg. 31 Frankfort Area Historical Museum ........ Back G. L. Williams Real Estate.................... pg. 4 Gandy’s Auto Body Shop ...................... pg. 2 Heights Market ...................................... pg. 9 Herron Chiropractic ............................. pg. 27 Howell Insurance ................................. pg. 25 Image Graphics ...................................... pg. 27 Jackson Pools & Spas ........................... pg. 17 JenRus Glass Design .............................. pg. 23 Johnson Realty .................................... pg. 31 Kreative Design Showcase ................... pg. 17 Leigh Bedokis Photography................... pg. 14 McCollom Real Estate ........................ pg. 28 McDonald’s .............................................. pg. 20 Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy ................. pg. 2 Mike Riva, Attorney ............................. pg. 25 Nolen Chiropractic Clinic .................... pg. 13 Parker-Reedy Funeral Home ................ pg. 27 Parkway Manor .................................. pg. 11 Ponton Foot Clinic ................................ pg. 31 Professional Pharmacy .......................... pg. 6 Sandy’s Flowers & Gifts ...................... pg. 24 Severin Garden Center........................... pg. 21 Shelter Insurance Agency .................... pg. 2 Southern Illinois Bank .......................... pg. 13 Sotlar-Herrin Lumber ............................. pg. 18 Teamster’s Union .................................. pg. 31 Union Funeral Home ........................... pg. 2 Volanski Heating & Air ...................... pg. 31 Weeks Chevrolet ..................................... pg. 37 WF Chamber of Commerce ................. pg. 8 Contact Michael A. Thomas at 937-2019 if you wish to advertise in “Good Living in West Frankfort”.


Spring • 2010

Good Living In

West Frankfort 6


Vol.4 No.1

Spring 2010

Table of Contents 6 West Frankfort residents gathered at the Coal Miner Memorial to show their support and offer their prayer for the recent mining trajedy in West Viriginia



8 The Heights Bakery, also known as the Height’s Market or Johnny’s, is still going strong after many years.


12 Charles Bernardoni shares his memories of Big Charlies and other businesses that his father started in West Frankfort before and after WWII.

16 West Frankfort residents welcome spring and the folks at Severin’s Garden Center offer some helpful advice on how to keep those flowers looking beautiful all summer.


19 Two people relive a life-changing moment that some might just call a miracle. 22 The New Era Dairy and the 400 block of East Main Street hold memories for many.



Good Living in West Frankfort is a magazine about the people, places and pride of West Frankfort. Our goal is to showcase interesting, unique and previously unpublished stories about the citizens, events and places in our community in a positive manner. Good Living in West Frankfort provides businesses the choice to advertise in a high-quality full-color venue at affordable prices. This magazine is free to our readers because of those advertisers. No portion of this publication, including photos and advertisements, may be reproduced in any manner without the expressed consent of Good Life Publications.©2010 Printed quarterly: Spring, Summer, Fall and Holiday Season.

Cover Photo by Michael Thomas: The Strand Park in full bloom.


Everybody is a child at heart when it comes to talking about jaw breakers, wax lips, Necco Wafers, candy cigarettes, and all other things ‘penny candy’. What was your favorite?


Parting shot shows the West Frankfort Fire Depart ment, our hometown heroes.

Good Living In

West Frankfort

A production of Good Life Publications 309 East Oak Street West Frankfort, IL 62896 (618) 937-2019 Published Quarterly: (Spring • Summer • Fall • WInter)

e-mail Contact: Spring • 2010

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Sharing The Sorrow

Photo by Jordan Murphy

By Gail Rissi Thomas


eartbreaking news dashed the hopes of the families of the miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine south of Charleston, West Virginia in April, when officials confirmed that no missing miners were rescued from

West Frankfort’s Coal Miner’s Memorial Photo by Michael Thomas


the depths of the coal mine where 29 men ended up giving their lives. “We did not receive the miracle we were praying for,” said Governor Joe Manchin III, looking somber, his voice barely audible. “This journey has ended, and now the healing will start.” The survivors of Upper Big Branch Mine, along with the families probably did not know that 465 miles away, members of another mining community were sharing that journey in spirit. Before the outcome of the rescue attempts was ever realized and before the news was ever announced, residents of West Frankfort gathered at the Coal Miners' Memorial on Main Street in a candlelight vigil, to pray for the rescue of the remaining miners and the healing and the comfort for the heartbroken. West Frankfort is no stranger to Spring • 2010

coal mine tragedies. Home to the 1951 explosion at the Orient # 2 mine in which 119 miners died, the incident is still listed as one of the five worst mine disasters in history. However, only three years earlier in 1947, 27 miners were killed at an Old Ben pit and throughout the century, mining fatalities claimed the lives of men who worked in the industry that supported the community. So while the residents in West Virginia waited for news, comfort and strength for the surviving families, perhaps some with hearts too broken to pray, they didn't need to know that in this Southern Illinois community, residents were gathering to pray for them and with them. It was one of those fine hours, when good living in West Frankfort is illustrated beyond words. Gov. Manchin's statement quoted from April 27, 2010 New York Times.

Spring • 2010

Michael A. Thomas

By Gail Rissi Thomas


o o paraphrase a thought from Hillary Clinton, “It takes a store to raise a child.” It does seem that in every American child's past there is a memory of a store that held all the wonderful things that make childhood magical. Simple things, we're talking about here, the kind of neighborhood establishment where he or she could buy a root beer in a bottle, a hearty bag of chips

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or a pretty fashionable Pez dispenser complete with the candy pills for not a lot of money, and hopefully a store in such close approximation to his or her house that they could get there without a chaperone at a fairly young age. That detail creates perfection. The Heights Market and Deli has stood at the corner of East Main and Rains in Frankfort Heights for nearly 90 years. And while it served the community under several different owners and a variety of

Spring • 2010

names, it has held the magic for a generation of children and their children and their children. John Youchoff, now a resident of Tennessee, offered a few details about the origin of the store, opening as the Heights Bakery in 1924. “My father built the bakery at the location where the store is now, “ he explained. But West Frankfort resident, Goebel Patton recalls a bakery before that bakery.

“The Heights Bakery was originally on Clark Street up in the Heights,” he says. “I know, because I lived next door to it. I was just a kid, but I used to work there, wrapping bread. Bread was about all they made there.” Although little information exists about that bakery, a few printed accounts tell us that the bread was delivered to the little groceries around town-- and there were many. “It was when Youchoff's bought the business that it was moved to Main Street.

Johnny and his sister, Betsy Irby worked in the store, and Johnny faithfully helped run it all the time he was in high school. In 1967 his turn finally came. Tom Griffin sold the store to him, and although he kept the name, Griffin's the store became indelibly recorded in Frankfort's history as “Johnny's.”

“I think he finally rolled it back to 4:30 in the morning. At least he was usually there ready to open at that time. “

“My mother and father, Louis and Margaret Youchoff, built the building on Main Street in 1924,” John Youchoff tells us. “I worked there when I was young. In about 1951, they stopped baking and turned it into more of a convenience store.”

“That store got more offering money on a Sunday Morning than Second Baptist Church did,” laughs Goebel Patton. “We all got there on a Sunday either before or after church, and a lot of offering money didn't ever make it into the collection plate.” In 1960 they sold the store to West Frankfort City Clerk, Tom Griffin, a transfer that Dixie Simmons has often heard about over the years. Dixie, who still lives in Frankfort Heights, is the widow of the late John Simmons, former mayor and owner of the little store for 31 years. “When Youchoff's sold the store, Johnny wanted to buy it more than anything in the world,” she says. “He loved that store; he had hung out there for years. He was only 16 at the time and of course he couldn't buy it, so he started begging his aunt and uncle, Tom and Jessie Griffin to buy it. I don't know exactly how he talked him into it, but he hounded them until they finally agreed, and in 1961 it became Griffin's Market.”

And when he was elected Mayor of West Frankfort in the mid Eighties, the store became city central with many residents standing around just to talk to the mayor, express opinions and voice complaints. Everybody knew where to find him. Joan Pugh, who worked at the store for 13 years laughs at the fact that he opened earlier all the time.

M.C. Odle, who lived in the Heights all his life, remembers buying bread at the bakery. “I think all they had was bread and some very plain doughnuts,” Odle recalls. “I think you could buy a double loaf of bread, like two loaves baked together into one. They would lay a peppermint stick in the crease, and it cost 15 cents.”

According to Youchoff, they sold the typical neighborhood grocery store fare with a hearty selection of penny candy.

in day after day, the miners, people on their way to work would get their coffee and their morning paper.”

John Simmons learned the value of hard work at a young age. He began driving an ice cream truck at the age of 15. Seven years later, at the age of 22, he bought Griffin’s Heights Market from his uncle.

(photo provided)

John Simmons was a West Frankfort boy who was born wanting to work. “He had helped out at the bakery before his Uncle Tom ever bought it,” Dixie said. “He was working for Bowens before he was even 16 years old, driving that ice cream truck around Marion. He was only 22 when he bought the store. He extended the hours to 11 at night, and he probably would have stayed open until midnight if Dixie would have stood for it,” she laughed.

Pugh has lots of memories to share, most good, many funny, some not so good. “I was there the day they almost hauled me off to jail for illegal fireworks,” she laughs. “I told the policeman, 'Don't you dare touch me, and don't you dare come back here behind this counter. Johnny's out at the park at Mike's baseball game; you just go find him. They left and I think John went down to the station, but he was back in no time. He never did get his fireworks back though; that's what made him mad.” “I was there one of the two times we got robbed too,” she adds. “Uncle Tom and I were working that night and two guys came in with guns. They kept saying to give them the money, and Uncle Tom wouldn't do it. I was scared to death, thinking ‘GIVE THEM THE MONEY. WE'RE GOING TO GET KILLED.' Just about that time, Scott Levanti walked in and said, 'What the hell's going on here?' and they took off out the door. I was never so glad to see anyone in my life. Tom called me later to apologize. He said, 'I

He started his day early too. “Well, people have their routines, you know,” Dixie said. “That was a nice thing about it. The same people came Spring • 2010

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guess I could have gotten us both killed, but all I could think of was Johnny standing there all those long hours trying to make a little money, and then me just giving it away. I just couldn't do it.'” The first robbery attempt took place years earlier when Johnny's mother was working the store by herself. She told the would-be robber in no uncertain terms to get out. “I guess he knew she meant business, and he left,” Dixie laughs. Most of Pugh's memories of the store were good ones. “They lined up on Sunday mornings. They lined up for firecrackers. They sure lined up for penny candy. My gosh, when those pop rocks came out, we couldn't keep them, no matter how many he bought.” “You know there were just so many kids who grew up through the years in the store,” Dixie says. “Johnny loved those kids coming in. I think he really believed that if they came in when they were little, they would bring their own kids in when they grew up, and of course they did. He loved having the penny candy that drew them. Of course he had to have the first of everything.”

“They lined up on Sunday mornings. They lined up for firecrackers. They sure lined up for penny candy. My gosh, when those pop rocks came out, we couldn’t keep them, no matter how many he bought.” --Joan Pugh, former employee--

“He had a trunk in the den at home where he kept all kinds of things that he had saved, and Lord knows, he saved everything. After he died, Mike and I were going through that stuff and we found things like a little toy or a rock with a rubber band around it and a note. He had written, 'Given to me' with a date and some kids name. He not only kept it; he took the time to write a note. It was just too much for me; I had to quit for a while. I couldn't take it.” Simmons liked to brag that he had the coldest soda in town, and my husband and I can attest to that fact. On the hottest day of the summer, it was not unusual to buy a Coke at Johnny's that was slushy with ice. We lived on Odle Street around the corner from the store for 10 years and found that he usually had just about anything we needed in that tiny space. Late one night, long before the magazine and long before computers, we were typing a paper of some sort and desperately needed something to correct our mistakes. It was nearly 11 pm., so after wasting about 10 minutes arguing over whether “Johnny had any kind f typewriter correction stuff,” I decided to call him to settle the argument. I was shocked when after I told him what I was looking for, and he responded, “Yeah, which kind do you want? Liquid or paper?”

(Photo provided)

It was always an amazement that he had just about anything someone might need in a panic. “He sold a lot of poster board,” Dixie said. “You know for when your kid tells you at 10 o'clock at night that he needs a project at 8 in the morning? Birthday candles, batteries.” He loved to keep the store as much a bakery as he could. A glass bakery case stood at the front of the store. I know I stocked it with peanut squares for several years and even whole pies for a while. He was the first retailer to sell Dixie Cream Donuts other then Dixie Cream themselves, and one can only imagine the thousands of cream horns that came and went out that front door.

Dixie Simmons, shown here with her husband John, continued operating the Heights Market for almost a year after her husband’s death in April of 1998.

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“He had to be the first with everything,” Dixie recalls. “He sold the first Diet Coke in town. He had the first Dippin' Dots that anyone had ever seen. In fact the owner of the company came in and sold them to us himself. He had to have every new soda that came out on the market, and God bless him, he had to save an unopened bottle of every one of them,” she laughs. “When Illinois first jumped into the lottery business, John Simmons

Spring • 2010

A young woman recently told Dixie: “Johnny’s was the only place I ever knew that you could spend so much time making up your mind what you wanted, even when you only had a nickel, and no one ever tried to make you hurry up.”

(Photo provided)

was the first anywhere around to apply for the equipment and begin selling the tickets. They used to line up all the way down the block for that,” Joan Pugh remembers. I can remember Johnny and my husband putting their heads together and coming up with a tip sheet, a type of lottery newsletter with lucky numbers and an account of numbers already drawn. It was just a bunch of junk, written and Xeroxed by Mike and sold for a dollar by Johnny. The fact that people actually bought it must be proof that they were at the right place at the right time. I don't remember

how long it lasted, but they sure had a lot of laughs out of it. “One time he bought a big red fry machine that sat near the front door. Something of a vending machine for hot fried food, it produced French fries, chicken nuggets, sausage and hash browns, and mini apple pies. “Fry 'em fast. Eat'em fresh,” it said on the front,” Dixie laughs. “It took up so much room. He paid a lot for it, and even our salesman in Paducah that he bought it from kind of tried to talk him out of it, but you know Johnny. He always wanted to work in a carnival. He loved it. We didn't use it long. I guess it ended up in the back room.' “When Johnny told us that he was getting a deli case, we thought he was kidding,” says Joan Pugh. “I said, 'Where in the world are you going to put it? There's no more room in here for anything.' He said, 'You just watch me.' So we got a deli case and we all learned to make deli sandwiches, and the miners were working the mines east of town at that time, and they just lined up.” Dixie Simmons worked only part time at the bakery and then only when their children, Mike and Amy, were older. Although she was a stay-at-home mom, her kids weren't always stay-at-home kids. They loved being at the store with their dad. “When Mike was really little, he often stayed up at the store with Johnny,” she remembers. “He used to fall asleep on the floor behind the front counter with a roll of paper towels under his head for a pillow. Amy loved the store as much as her dad did, and I think she would have worked there forever and never even gone on to school if we had let her.” Dixie managed the store herself for less than a year after Johnny's death, and then sold it. The Heights Bakery and Deli, as it is now named, is owned by Dawn Browning. It still has a deli, Dixie Cream donuts, cold sodas, bins of penny candy and the regulars who come in every morning to get their coffee and the news of the day. When the new owner was having improvements made to the outside of the building about a year ago, Browning found that she had an even more visible tie to the store's history than she

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knew about. When they uncovered the west side of the building, they found a huge sign, Heights Bakery, on the west wall. She left it uncovered as a link to West Frankfort's past. “Just a few months before John died we were driving to St. Louis,” Dixie said. “We were talking about our kids finding what they wanted to do for the rest of their life. John said, 'You know, I guess I've been luckier than a lot of people. I love the store. There has never been one day that I have gotten up in the morning and wished that I didn't have to go to work that day. I love my job, and I've loved every minute of it.' I'm really glad that he told me that.”

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n the 1940’s you could go out to have a meal in West Frankfort, and 35 cents would get you a plate of homemade spaghetti and a meatball. Hold the meatball, and it would only cost you a quarter. Carletto and Annunciata Bernardoni made their way from Moderna, Italy to Main Street in West Frankfort. Big Charlies Restaurant was only one of various business ventures which they owned and operated side by side, thriving in a booming community which beat a path to their door. My family went there often in the Fifties. It was only a short walk down Main from where we lived, and I recall that on Mom’s night out, whether it was a church ladies meeting or Canasta Club that took her away from the stove, my dad always took us to Big Charlies, and we loved it.

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I honestly can’t remember a lot about the food, other than it was authentic Italian, but if my parents went there repeatedly to eat, it must have been good. The Big Charlies that most West Frankfort residents living today remember would be that restaurant at 412 East Main with the checkered floors and red leather booths. But that was not the Bernardonis’ first attempt at business in West Frankfort. Nor was West Frankfort their first home in America. Their youngest son, Charles, told their story. “My father worked in the coal mines,” he said. “He worked for a time in Blockton, Alabama, and followed the work to West Frankfort. He owned several different businesses here, and Big Charlies was actually the last one.” “I think one of the earliest businesses he owned was a pool hall somewhere on West Main. I have a photo of that; it was Spring • 2010

upstairs, somewhere near where Pen Yu Drug used to be, but this was even earlier than that. He also owned a barbeque place somewhere on the west side for a while, near the tracks. I don’t really know where it was.” “At one time he owned a feed store; it was near where the IBEW is now. I

Carletto Bernardoni opened a pool hall in West Frankfort as early as 1926.

photo provided


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• General Practice • Criminal Law • Family Law • DUI • Drivers License Reinstatement • 10 Years Experience


205 N. Logan Suite B West Frankfort, IL 62896



(618) 932-3900 HOPLAW1@YAHOO.COM Spring • 2010

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“You know, West Frankfort’s a good town. There’s good people here. I’ve lived all around Southern Illinois, and now I live in Marion, but I always tell people I’m from West Frankfort. This will always be my hometown.”

--Charles Bernardoni--

remember that in 1925, my dad owned and operated the Majestic Theater on west Main,” Bernardoni recalled. “It was where the State was later next to Glodich Honda. The building is gone now. But I know he operated it when the 1925 tornado came through. Byford Young worked there too. They had a vaudeville act that day, and they were using mules in the act. Those mules may have been out back, but when the tornado blew through, it blew those mules up on the roof of the building,” he laughed. “They had to get block and tackle to get them down,” “The Big Charlies that you remember at 412 East Main,” he told me, “was actually the third Big Charlies. My dad opened the business at two other locations before that. The first one was in the foyer of the Roxy Theater in the 200 block of East Main,” he continued. “Some people called it the Rex, and I believe that had been the name of it at one time. It was closed as a theater at the time, although the screen and all the seats were still there. My dad opened a bar in the front, the concession area of that theater. It was right after prohibition, about 1933 or ‘34. He tapped Stag beer and served a limited menu of food, because at that time, if you had a bar, you

had to serve some kind of food along with it. My mom cooked barbeque and roast beef at home and brought it up and put it in a steam table and sold sandwiches.”

(Photo by Gail Rissi Thomas)

When I was only about 8 years old, I used to pick up all the empty beer bottles and clean the spittoons in the alley out back. I remember working there when they held the first Old King Coal Festival. That was on Main Street, you know, just almost right out our front door. We sure sold a lot of food and beer.”

In the 1930’s -4 0’s, Big Charlies was a popular stopping place for coal miners looking for a cold beer after work. “Business was good,” Bernardoni said, “and in 1939, he moved right next door to 218 East Main. That was the second Big Charlies, it was next to Table Pride Bakery. They expanded the menu to include fish and chicken and sometimes spaghetti. I know my mom sold a fiddler catfish, slaw, bread and fried potatoes for 10 cents.” “I remember working there when I was just a little kid. I cleaned tables, washed dishes.

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Charles Berardoni with his son Mike.

Spring • 2010

Although business at Big Charlies was booming, everything was not in their control.

“The war started and the government started rationing beer,” Bernardoni explained. “We used to get one or two kegs a day, and we were used to selling seven or eight kegs a day. I remember we used to save the kegs for when the miners would get off work. Boy that beer was gone in no time at all.” In 1945, The Bernardonis made the last move in their business careers when they moved into the building at 412 East Main. Again, although the beer rationing continued for a while, they operated a full bar and expanded their menu to include chicken and steaks and Italian specialties such as homemade ravioli and homemade stew and soups. “We were really busy,” Bernardoni said.

“We were close to the high school, so we got a lot of business from that, and when there were activities and sporting events on almost any weekend nights people waited in line for tables.” “I worked there a lot,” he remembers. “When I was in junior high, while other kids were out running around at lunch, I would hurry to the restaurant so that I could help out. I washed dishes. Boy, no air conditioning back then either. Later I tended bar.”

father took off and went to his funeral. My father died the next day. My mother continued to run the restaurant with my brother Frank. They took out the bar in 1958, and ran it just as a restaurant. A few years later they sold it to Jim and Frances Irvin.” “During those years I was serving overseas in the Korean War. I served 17 months and came home in 1954. I went to Southern on the GI Bill and graduated in 1958 in accounting. I spent most of my

career at SIU in various jobs. I worked in the general accounting office and as comptroller. I was director of accounting and served as Bursar. My wife, Joan and I have been married 55 years now. We have five kids and six grandchildren.” “You know,” Bernadoni said. “West Frankfort’s a good town. There’s good people here. I’ve lived all around Southern Illinois, and now I live in Marion, but I always tell people I’m from West Frankfort. This will always be my hometown.”

As is often the case, children around a family business have their own set of memories. Bernardoni’s oldest son, Michael, has his own memories worth recording, not because they were a part of Big Charlies, but because Big Charlies was so much a part of his life. “I remember when I was very small, sitting in the restaurant and watching “To Tell the Truth” on television. Kenny Gray was on the show because he was the only United States congressman who was a magician. Sometime later, I don’t know, days or weeks, he came in the restaurant. He was all dressed up and had on a top hat. He picked me up and put me up on the counter and started doing magic tricks for me. I just remember that so well. The Internet says that was 1958, I had to be four years old.” “I also remember that my dad took me next door to Boatright the Barber to get my hair cut. He grabbed my head under his arm like a melon and buzzed all my hair off. I cried my eyes out.” Another neighboring business was Bill the Baker. “Bill had a bakery right next door with his brother Steve and his son, Charles,” Bernardoni said. “They were the ones who first baked the bread that looked like alligators, and they would have them in the front window. (Blades Bakery also may have done that later.) Bill and Steve were Serbian, and the nicest people you would ever know. We used to buy all our bread from them, and they would cook my mom’s pork shoulders in their ovens at night. All they wanted for it was the cracklings. They liked that.” “Well,“ he continued,“in February of 1955, Bill died. I remember that my Spring • 2010

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our biggest day is the day before Mother's Day, without a doubt.” As we stepped in and around clusters of plants of every variety, Severin pointed out some of the more popular and some of his personal favorites.

istock photo


ell the notorious April showers have come and gone and come again. God took care of His job without any help from us. It's time now for the flowers that follow, but you probably agree that we have to put a little more effort into controlling that part of the beauty of springtime. Knowledge is power, so when we started thinking about giving this issue of Good Living in West Frankfort a bright and springy look, we decided to make ourselves and our readers a little more knowledgeable to acquire some real flower power. Dale and Peggy Severin of Severins'

Dale Severin shows the proper way to water a plant to avoid sunscald.

(photo by Michael A. Thomas)

Pg. 16

Garden Center in West Frankfort have been growing, loving and selling flowers and plants of all kinds for 26 years. So we paid them a visit last week, and while Mike browsed among the beautiful blooms taking pictures, I watched as Dale and his employees tended the plants and listened to his experienced advice.

“This is a knockout shrub rose,” he pointed out. “It's the most popular rose. It takes very little care and is loaded with buds. In the fall, you can cut it back to about 12 inches off the ground. You would think it would kill it, but it just makes it bloom more the next year. This is a Dwarf Korean Lilac,” he said, lifting a potted plant covered in lilac blooms.” The fragrance of the flower met us even before he held it out for a closer sniff. “It's the most fragrant of any variety.” My husband was interested in knowing about treating plants for insects and disease. “If your plants are healthy, well watered and well fed, you really don't have to worry about spraying them with pesticide or anything,” Severin said. And how about the dreaded Japanese beetle, we wondered.

“You know that you “Well, if you get Japanever want to water nese Beatles, you've got over the top of folithem. They really flock age,” Severin said, to Purple Plums and as he tipped up flowWeeping Cherries. If you ering baskets one by get them, you just have one and aimed the no choice except to dust spray of water under with Sevin to get rid of the leaves. “I know them.” you see ads all the time with pictures Jennifer Reed shared of people spraying with us a lot of knowlwater and feed over edge that comes from exthe tops of rows perience. She has been of plants, but I'm working at Severins There are many variety of roses. One that sure they never do for about seven years, produces an abundance of blooms that lasts that. It only leads well into fall and requires little care is the advising customers knockout shrub rose. to sunscald, and on more than just the (photo by Michael A. Thomas) sunscald can be things that bloom. really bad in our area. For the same reasons, you don't want “Your potting soil is really important,” to water anything in the heat of the day,” Jennifer explained. “You want to start with he added. “Water early in the morning or a good potting soil with fertilizer in it. A in the evening.” lot of the cheaper brands are full of sticks and bark. We recommend High Perfor“This is really pretty early still,” Severin mance Potting Soil with Ferti-loma.” said, “Although the plants do have a lot of We couldn't leave without a little advice blooms. We usually have more than 400 on vegetable growing for the wannabe baskets ready any time early in the season. farmer. The biggest day in the flower business and Spring • 2010

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I was most interested in tomatoes. “Grape tomatoes are the easiest,” Jennifer advised. “They don't take much care and one plant can yield 1,000 tomatoes. Tomatoes aren't hard to grow. I personally like the Better Boy, but there are a lot of good brands. The biggest problem that people run into with tomatoes is that they bust or split before they are ready to pick. That's called end rot, and if that happens you should start feeding them calcium. Again, you always need to remember to lift up the foliage and water plants at the base, not over the top.” “Topsy-Turvy tomato plants are really popular right now,” she added. “Those are the ones you see that grow upside down. They yield a smaller to medium sized tomato, but that's all a lot of people want. Same thing with container gardening. You can grow lettuce, onions and other vegetables in bowls. It's easy and great for people who live alone or just don't need a whole lot.” Browsing through any greenhouse should give you the inspiration to try to bring on some of Like many West Frankfort residents, Harthose May flowriet Willis was eager to greet the warmer ers that the April spring weather by purchasing flowers at showers have been the recent Freshman Class Flower Sale held at the corner of Main and Rt. 37. working on. Let's (Photo by Michael A. Thomas) see, anything else? The single biggest flower day of the year is the day before Mother's Day, without a doubt. Did I already mention that?

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Spring • 2010

Photo Coutesy of CIPS


By Sherri Murphy

be in the right place at the right time.

ost often we believe we are planning our own days. There are times, though, when we realize that we really aren't in control at all. A recent phone call from the past, reminded my father, Ray Maragni, of one of those times- when his plans changed one day many years ago as a greater plan unfolded before his eyes.

My Dad worked full time for CIPS and also pastored a small church, Townmount Baptist, for many years. After initially scheduling his vacation for the first week in August 1972, circumstances caused him to reschedule it for the last week in July. He had

He remembers the day vividly, although it was nearly 38 years ago when the incident took place. A nearmiraculous chain of events led him to

hoped to travel out of town, but those plans fell through as well. So he and my mother, Rosalyn, found themselves spending a leisurely day at home instead, simply tending to chores around the house and the yard. In fact, they were both outside in the front yard at about 2 o'clock that afternoon when suddenly from the house across the

“The child was stiff as a board, her eyes were set and her skin had already begun to turn blue.” Spring • 2010

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street, the front door burst open, and a neighbor, Mary Parker, ran out of the house screaming. She was carrying the lifeless body of her two year-old baby girl Starla, in her arms. My mom and dad rushed to her side, hoping there was something they could do to help her. Mary handed the still baby over to my father. "The child was stiff as a board,” he recalls. “Her eyes were set and her skin had already begun to turn blue." As my mother began to pray, my dad quickly began to administer CPR. A career CIPS employee, he was well trained in life saving procedures. He began the fundamentals of the life-saving process he had been taught. The next few moments changed the lives of everyone involved. "I didn't know what was wrong, but I began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” he recalls. “I couldn't open her mouth or bend her neck back like I had been instructed in training, so I gave her a couple of quick heart massages and began breathing my breath

into her nostrils. After 12-15 breaths, I heard a soft moan. Finally, her eyes began to shift and her body moved. I knew she was alive." They rushed the child to UMWA Hospital where she was treated overnight and released the next morning. She had suffered convulsions due to a high fever (106 degrees) although miraculously, she seemed to suffer no permanent effects.

Ray Maragni and Starla Filhart today.

(Photo by Sherri Maragni)

Of course, Starla's parents, Fred and Mary Parker, were very grateful to both of my parents for helping to save the life of their child, but as it often happens, the neighbors lost touch

over the years as the Parkers moved to another state. One late afternoon a couple of months ago, my parents were enjoying a leisurely evening watching one of their favorite television programs when the phone rang. My mother answered the phone and the soft voice on the other end asked if she could speak with my father. Before she introduced herself, she told him that that although he may not remember her, her mother had instructed her to call him if she ever came back to West Frankfort. Starla Filhart had moved back to her hometown and wanted to personally thank him for saving her life nearly 38 years ago. Although Starla doesn't remember the incident, she shared how her mother had reminded her of the miracle throughout the years to encourage her to persevere when times got tough because God obviously had a plan for her life. My father of course remembered the incident, but the phone call helped him relive many of the details of the miraculous ending to what could have become a tragic memory for all involved. "The past is gone, but not forgotten, and can resurface at anytime. It was a great reminder to me that my past is still important in the present", he added. The Maragnis and Starla and her boys, recently attended church together at Whittington Church and have shared hugs and stories as they are both reminded of the power of a good neighbor and the importance of being at the right place at the right time. My dad says that God places us where we can be of use to others. Both he and the Parkers are grateful that he was a part of God's plan that day.

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By Gail Rissi Thomas was sitting in a Mexican Restaurant the other night waiting for a couple of tacos I had ordered for my son. He loves tacos. Neither my husband nor I are aficionados of Mexican food, but neither of us wanted anything to eat on this particular evening, so this was the night for tacos.

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Of course when I got there and started looking at the very full and complicated menu, I decided that maybe I might just be a tiny bit hungry too. “ What's a quesadilla?” I asked the young Mexican waiter. “Is that that flat kind of thing?” He seemed to agree with me, so I continued with confidence. Spring • 2010

“Does it have steak in it?” “No, chicken,” he replied. “Oh, can I get it with steak?” He agreeably shook his head yes. “Does it have sour cream,” I asked, hopefully. “No, he shook his head sadly. “Can I get sour cream in it”.

could lean on the half wall that divided the room into two parts. As my eyes drifted over the room and my mind floated over the years, I wondered what my father would have said if I had ever been able to tell him before his death in 1961 that years down the road West Frankfort would be home to two or three Mexican Restaurants. He probably would have laughed and said, “Yes and Ronald Reagan will probably be President of the United States.” West Frankfort was his town. A professional photographer and prosperous businessman, his studio, where we lived was only a short one-block walk from the building that housed the New Era Dairy, where I now sat waiting for tacos. I loved this place. It had it's own claims to fame in my family history. I had often heard that when my brother, Tim and his best buddy, our neighbor Charley Ahlm ran away from home one summer day, they went as far as the New Era Dairy, sat down and ate the lunch their respective moms had packed and returned home. In fact I loved this whole block-- and I’m not even including the north side of the street where Mike's confectionary nurtured every kid who ever went through West Frankfort High School. Brown Maple House was on the corner. The Maple House was just cool. I had never been inside, but I walked past it daily on my way to and from school and it held charm and mystery for me. I asked my mom what it was and she said, “Oh just a house with rooms inside like a house, so you can see what furniture would look like in a house.” Umm ok. Not too sure about that, but it seemed to be the best answer I was going to get.

“Sure,” he agreed. “Does it have tomatoes?” “ No,” he replied. He was on to my game. “But we can put tomatoes on it.” “Ok. Give me one of those.” “OK”, he smiled and hurried toward the kitchen. I sat back in my chair, sideways to the table, so that I

One day when I was in about first grade, my neighbor Timmy Ahlm, who used to walk home from school with me took me on the scenic route around through the back yard of it, and I couldn't keep up. I thought I was lost for a few minutes but luckily the back of the studio was visible from where I stood, s I found my way home by myself. I got in trouble for having thistles stuck in my coat…times can be tough when you're six years old. Cline Wade office supply was in that block, one of my favorite places to go because when I was a little older and ran errands for my dad, I had reason to get to see Agnes Mihalic, whom I know must have been the nicest lady in town. I still remember the smell of Spring • 2010

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Cline Wade's store. It smelled of fresh clean paper, pencils, carbon, erasers, the first day of school, and everything ready to write wonderful stuff on. But more than that, I remember Agnes's smile, which lit up the store more than the fluorescent lights overhead. Big Charlie's Restaurant was here somewhere too, a place so locally famous in its time, that it has earned it's own story in this issue of the magazine. There were other cool things about that block. There was Vic's Cash and Carry right around the corner on Jackson Street. Cash and Carry was not my favorite place, but you couldn't deny that it was interesting. I think it was a concrete block building and as dark on the inside as Cline Wades was light. I don't remember Vic smiling much; I don't even remember him talking. My dad used to go there because he was in business and Cash and Carry was a wholesale house. Cardboard boxes were stacked high with can goods and a lot of assorted stuff. We bought paper there for school, wide ruled notebooks. They came in a pack of 12 and had the outline of a key on the front. My brother and sister and I all used them for school. We probably bought other things there; I don't remember, and although I didn't like the big dark room with a naked light bulb hanging from a cord, I rarely refused the chance to accompany my dad on a trip to Vic's I recalled other places on the south side of that block. There was a barbershop, Boatright’s long before it was Lon's. Being a girl, that held little interest for me. But a place that had everyone's interest was Blades Bakery. Blade's Bakery had among other things, the best brownies I ever tasted in my life. They were just a rich chocolate brownie with chocolate icing, and they were a nickel apiece. He had other things that people talked about, cream horns, I think, doughnuts? I think, cupcakes to die for. Mr. Blades baked and decorated every birthday cake we ever needed and he baked our wedding cake, which was both beautiful and delicious. Mr. Blades and his wife came to know me as they probably did all the kids who stopped on the way back and forth to school Their kindness, their friendliness, even when you were only spending a nickel, were all a part of the heavenly pastries they sold.


Spring • 2010

“Hungry,” my son said, bringing my attention back to the restaurant and the two-seater table where we sat. I looked over toward the west wall and thought. That is probably just about as far as I ever went in here. I could almost see myself standing-- right about there-- when I was about eight years old, and nine and 12, and 15, probably younger, maybe older. Sometimes my clenched fist held a dime. I could have an ice cream sandwich or a drumstick. Usually I had a nickel, which would get me fudgesicle, an ice cream bar, the kind you used to get where the chocolate was rich, thin and crisp, and broke off in sheets with every bite. The dreamsicles, my mom's all time favorite, or a Dixie cup, eaten with a tiny wooden paddle that made the experience different than eating any other kind of vanilla ice cream in any other situation. The novelties and the popsicle were never gummy or soft. I don't know how cold they kept those things, but the paper wrapper ripped off without ever considering sticking to the coating.

deeply with the aura of nostalgia. Our mothers would never have let us walk down Main Street barefoot. But it looks good in my dream. Again, I was shaken from my trance by the waiter who stood before me with a white sack containing our tacos and custom designed quesa-

dilla. I paid the bill and walked out to the car. My son was quiet. I know his mind was on the tacos he would devour when we got home. Me? All I really wanted was a banana popsicle.

I guess we frequented the New Era during the school year. I'm sure we did, but on hot summer afternoons whether I made the walk alone, with my sister, or Susan Ahlm our neighbor, we frequently made the journey for ice cream. It seems on those occasions we passed up Blades, and Mike Belbas probably missed out on the sale of gallons and gallons of Frosty because a trip there involved crossing Main. Those days reeked of summer. In my mind's eye, I saw the two or three of us wandering down Main on our journey, barefoot, the summer sun blazing down on the hot sidewalk. That's one way I know these memories have been tinged Spring • 2010

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By Gail Rissi Thomas Photos by Michael Thomas Penny candy is kind of a funny thing. Everybody loves it, but do you remember ever saying, “Boy, I'd give anything for one of those little pointy ice cream cones with the dried up marshmallow that looks like ice cream in it?” I'm guessing not. Or maybe you've thought, “I'm really hungry for some of those colored dots of whatever they are that are glued to long white strips Pg.26

of paper” I know there are probably quite a few people out there who will insist that they love particular flavors of Pez, and I'll even admit that a banana Laffy Taffy is hard to pass up. I put one in my mouth not too long ago, but I also think I took it out before it was totally consumed. Some things just aren't the same. I'm betting that if you ask 10 different people what their favorite kind of penny candy is, you will get 10 different answers, most Spring • 2010

probably referring to candy that you have never heard of or long forgotten. Dixie Simmons, one of the local penny candy authorities who did time at the Heights Bakery, tends to think of penny candy in categories. “Oh people used to love the flavors of Laffy Taffy, the root beer barrels, the candy cigarettes,” she said. “I guess they're not politically correct anymore. Johnny always liked the seasonal stuff, the Halloween stuff like the wax


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lips, the tiny Easter eggs and the Peeps. I liked the penny candy when it still looked pretty; later it changed and a lot of it looked gross. Then we had the stuff that popped in your mouth (That was a really big deal), and then all the gummy candy, and then the sour stuff.� I did a little unofficial research to see if people remember their favorites or still have one. The responses only proved something that Michael and I had already suspected. There are at least two generations of penny candy. The generation that includes baby boomers and older responded with oldies like candy necklaces,


which Cheryl Herman liked. I wonder how long ago Cheryl ate one of those yummy things? Others answered Mary Janes,

Root Beer Barrels, Peanut Butter Logs, tiny wax soda bottles with stuff inside, and those thin, stiff sticks of bubble gum with a powdery surface. (What was that

Spring • 2010

stuff?) Jaw Breakers and Licorice Whips. Oh, I remember now... Chum Gum. The younger generation, including anyone from 18 to 40, had answers like gold foil wrapped coins, Smarties, Tootsie Pops, Pop Rocks and pacifier lollipops. One mother and daughter, who were hundreds of miles away from one another each responded Tootsie Rolls. I didn't think anybody liked those, but Tootsie Rolls are the oldest wrapped penny candy in the United States. They have been around for 113 years. I guess somebody does. Remember Necco Wafers? The NECCO

Company has been making candy since 1847, NECCO stands for New England Confectioner Company of Cambridge, MA They used to sell them at the Strand Theater, which made for pretty risky eating. The theater was so dark, you couldn't be sure what flavor you were about to put in your mouth. It might be licorice, heaven forbid. Michael insists that the purple one was clove flavored. Yuck!. I didn't be-

lieve him, but he remembers it and their website confirms it. I liked the pink and the white, but Chocolate was my favorite. A couple of years ago, my son bought me a package of NECCO Wafers with only one flavor. Chocolate! It was one of the neatest Mother's Day presents I ever got. So in case you're in Old Timers say that “Squirrel Nut Zippers”--vanilla, the mood for what caramel and nut taffy--still tastes the same as it did is now referred to years ago. It was named after an illegal drink during as retro candy, there Prohibition. During the 1990’s, a retro swing band named themselves “Squirrel Nut Zippers,” and the are about a thousand band treats their audiences by giving out free candy websites on the Interduring their performances. net where you can fill a virtual brown paper Browning still has bins full of sack with everything a wide variety of old fashioned from Pixie Sticks to Chick-openny candy. But, uh, you better Sticks. Or you can just go up to bring some nickles and dimes. the Heights Market and Deli, the one with the sign on the side that says, Heights Bakery. Dawn


Old-Fashioned Customer Service Call Today for A Quote

110 North Logan • West Frankfort, IL (618) 932-2730 • (618) 937-4421 Fax

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West Frankfort Fire Department

Front row: Jon Alexander, Rob Williams, Jody Allen, Craig Lemmon and Ron Rains. Back row: Derek Saillez, Gary Little and John Horrell.


Spring • 2010

(Photo by Michael A. Thomas)

Without Labor Nothing Prospers

Teamsters Local # 347 • (618) 932-3191 President: Terry Rawson • Vice President: Tracy Davis Secretary-Treasurer: Rosi Miller • Recordiing Secretary: Jerry Cunningham Trustees: Terry Gossett Stan Patterson Charles Mazur

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Spring • 2010

Good Living in West Frankfort  
Good Living in West Frankfort  

Spring 2010