I learned about a disgusting incident at Richwoods High School that will probably go unreported. A 17 year old student was the victim of bullying. You know, it’s that activity that even the President of the United States and his wife has talked about discouraging. The IHSA has even run countless commercials about it. A recent letter to the Journal from parents of a student who committed suicide because of bullying emphasized the need for schools to be more active to prevent the hateful behavior. Apparently, a group of Richwoods students thinks “it’s cool.”
According to my sources, a 17 year old student, who has emotional challenges due to abuse, is often subjected to taunts and teasing by classmates, making his life, that’s already difficult, even more so. The taunts and teasing went even further. While the student was in gym class, a group allegedly took his clothes out of a locker and urinated on them before they were returned. When the victim went to get dressed he could smell the urine and knew what happened. School officials reportedly failed to investigate or do anything saying, “Since we don’t know who did it, there’s nothing we can do.” A couple of questions for Richwoods officials: Did you call and report it to police? If not, why not? Did you make a report for District 150 administration? If not, why not? If the student has been a previous victim of bullying, what are you doing to protect him while holding others accountable? The entire episode is disgusting.
Peoria has a great opportunity to finally have a sports complex that could exceed East Peoria’s Eastside and certainly the fields in Pekin adjacent to the Dome. It was exciting to learn that officials with Copperstown Dreams Park in New York are interested in building a sports complex near the Shoppes at Grand Prairie that would provide some 25 fields for baseball and softball. A lot of pieces have to fall in place for the development to be realized, but let’s keep our bats crossed in the hopes it’ll happen despite the negative newspaper story (as usual).
SCHOOL OFFICIALS TAKE VACATION TRIP
Don’t believe the baloney District 150 officials are pedaling about their taxpayer-paid trip to Washington D.C. By a vote of 4-3, the board approved taking money tabbed for education to spend on an expense paid trip to lobby some members of Congress. Debbie Wolfmeyer, Linda Butler and Grenita Lathan, superintendent, will make the trip that will accomplish nothing of value that can’t be achieved by Aaron Shock, Congressman, and/or our two Illinois senators. The allocated $7,500 is small, but the negative signal to taxpayers is huge. Interestingly, I always thought it was unethical for elected officials like Wolfmeyer and Butler to vote in favor of spending money from which they personally benefit, in this case, plane tickets, lodging and meals. A tip of the hat to those who opposed the “vacation;” Jim Stowell, Laura Petelle and Martha Ross, although Ross recently returned from a similar trip in April. Given the flow of red ink in District 150, there should be a moratorium on travel.
THE AMAZING MIKE DENTINO
Peoria and central Illinois have been blessed with a lot of talented performers, entertainers, and broadcast professionals who have gone on to bigger and better stages and audiences. We’re talking about people like Richard Pryor, Royce Elliott, Chick Hearn, Bob Starr, Fibber McGee and Molly, Charles Correll, Jack Brickhouse, and many others including Dana Davis as described in the preceding column. Many with equal talent, on the other hand, decided to stay put in Peoria. As an example, in broadcasting, Dave Snell could’ve gone with a Major League baseball team or perhaps to an NBA club. And when it comes to acting and/or performing on stage, Mike Dentino is at the top of the list. He opted to stay in Peoria with his wife Margaret and raise children; 10 of them. Now that’s a talent. On stage he could do it all from acting to singing to dancing to stand-up comedy. Believe it or not, at the age of 80, Marvelous Mike is still at it. He’ll be appearing in a new musical called “Encore” at the famed Conklin Theater in Goodfield. The ageless Dentino, who was born and raised on Peoria’s southside (as opposed to the newspaper’s South Valley), will appear with a couple of other talented performers, Mel and Bonnie White, plus the veteran Mary Simon and some “young” people. The musical traces the history of the Conklin Theater over the years centered around its founder, the versatile and late Chaunce Conklin. Dentino will be bouncing around the stage, well, maybe not bouncing, but he’ll be displaying his multiple talents when “Encore” opens the third week in June closing in late July. Don’t miss seeing and enjoying the Marvelous Mike Dentino!
I think I’ve heard it all. Republican Steve Morris, relatively new to the County Board, introduced a resolution calling for elimination of one member to reduce the board’s size.
His argument was the board should have an odd number so you don’t start with a potential tie. Read Robert’s Rules of Orders, Steve. On most measures for a vote, if it ends in a tie the measure loses. Morris went on to suggest reducing the board’s size by one would set a good example of fiscal responsibility by putting “our money where our mouth is.” Instead of eliminating someone else’s job, Steve, why not offer a resolution to reduce every board member’s salary by $1,000? Bingo. $18,000 savings for taxpayers and, Steve, you’re putting your/our money where your mouth is.
EXPO GARDENS IN FINANCIAL TROUBLE?
There was a time when the Heart of Illinois Fair was one of the biggest events of the year in Peoria. It drew some of the top names in the entertainment industry from Bob Hope to Kenny Rogers to Bill Cosby. For a variety of reasons, summer fairs aren’t the attraction they once were. That’s why Exposition Gardens is struggling to stay out of the red ink, and thus alive. And that’s why the Expo board was interested in allowing a go-kart track on its grounds. Promoters were willing to stage close to 20 events providing Exposition Gardens with badly needed revenue.
Then the neighbors came out of the woodwork with all kinds of objections. They reminded me of the guy who moved next to a school and started complaining about kids. Exposition Gardens and the Heart of Illinois Fair have been around since 1948. I remember when they held stock car races on the Fair grounds. The rides, the lights, the noise (and lots of it), the cars, the dust (sometimes the mud) and even fights, are all part of the seven plus days for neighbors to enjoy. They knew it when they moved there. Go-karts with their small motors are less of a noise factor than five neighbors cutting grass on a Sunday morning. To complain about that is as ridiculous as one of the Expo objectors telling the promoter to “take your toys and go home.” Translated it means take your kids and get out of town.
I lived in Wardcliffe for over 35 years. About two miles away was the Peoria Speedway on Farmington Road. Every Saturday night, holidays and some Sundays, I heard the roar of car engines and mufflers from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m. I guarantee the noise decibel was far louder than Briggs and Stratton mower engines used by go-karts. Did I prefer not to hear it? Sure. Was it the end of the world? No. I even went to a few races. So to the objecting neighbors, relax. It’s no big deal. To the promoter, I suggest if the city and neighbors continue to fight your plans, take your idea to East Peoria where they’ll accommodate you with open arms. They are, after all, pro business. While East Peoria is building a huge multi-million dollar Bass Pro Shop, Peoria and neighbors of Exposition Gardens are fighting a $13,000 go-kart track for children. Truth is, when the dust from the issue settles, there will be no track for go-karts at Expo Gardens.
A GREAT JUDGE
I predicted it months ago. This column wrote that Peoria County states attorney Kevin Lyons would be appointed to a judgeship. Okay, so I was off slightly when I suggested it would be a federal appointment. Still, it appears Lyons will be named to replace Glenn Collier as circuit judge.of the 10th Judicial Circuit that includes the counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Stark, Marshall and Putnam. Lyons has been tough on those who break the law, one of the reasons he’s been re-elected for over 20 years. He’s a no-nonsense guy who I think will make a great judge for the people.
I can’t figure out why the Journal Star has to wait to write a sold out review at the Civic Center two days later. Tim McGraw, the great country music artist came to town, but you didn’t read anything about it until Sunday beyond a Saturday photo. Why is it the newspaper can cover a Bradley basketball game or a Chiefs night game in it’s next day edition, but not a Civic Center show?
SHOOTING ASIAN CARP
Peoria and the Illinois River made national cable television Sunday, May 22, on the Sportsman channel. Brooks Johnson is a nationally known bow shooting hunter. He brought his family to Central Illinois to shoot Asian carp on the Illinois River. Damn is he good with a bow and arrow. So was his 15 year old son, Bricker. Together they moved up and down the river with the Murray Baker Bridge and the Peoria skyline in the background nailing the huge fish as they leaped in the air.
Then the Johnsons traveled to Yates City, home of the Lumenok Company. The 13 employees produce lighted units for the tail of arrows so shooters can trace the path of their shot. It’s fascinating work for this small central Illinois company and it was great to see them receive exposure on national television.
Sunday, June 19, is Father’s Day. I conclude this month’s column by sharing some memories about my father, Zack O. Monroe. The “O” by the way stood for Oral. Dad was born in Sullivan, Illinois, in a family with two sisters. It was 1904 and times were tough for the Monroe family. To be blunt, they were very poor. Late at night, as a young boy, he was sent with his little wagon to pick up coal along the railroad tracks for heat. He learned the barbering trade while shining shoes in a Sullivan barber shop. He quit school as a Freshman to help support the family. With his earnings from shining shoes, he purchased used barber tools and left home for Peoria at the age of 16 with 25 cents.
With little money and no place to live, he slept in a boxcar in Bartonville using as many newspapers he could find for warmth. Eventually, he met a barber by the name of Billy Williams who told him he could cut hair in his shop on Sundays (when they were normally closed) and keep whatever he earned. And that is how his career as a barber began. He opened a shop in Averyville in the 2900 block of North Adams, later moved to the 3000 block where he rented the upstairs as an apartment and then renovated the back of the shop for another apartment. That was the start of his career in real estate. Meanwhile, he helped start the Northside Businessmen’s Association and was elected Alderman from the 10th Ward, a post he held for eight years. Mayor Carl Triebel then asked him to run as Supervisor of General Assistance, known as Overseer of the Poor. He was elected and re-elected for 40 years. As if that wasn’t enough, he purchased the Peoria Barber College, increased enrollment from 50 chairs to over 100, and even bought and renovated a former whore house into a dormitory for out-of-town students. Dad did more to help more people than 20 community leaders together over his life-time and the Peoria Journal Star honored his extensive accomplishments by calling him “uneducated” at his death. Born into poverty, Dad truly was an example of what can be achieved in America with hard work, dedication, self-confidence, and a devoted wife. So, Dad, Happy Father’s Day.