The Illinois Dalton Gang were mostly movers – Part 1

pic9   Il Divo blared at Silvia’s in Enfield, Conn., where John Dalton and I enjoyed a brunch as lavish as the sonorous music. Silvia is Romanian. To die for is her Transylvanian baked sausage, bacon, and egg casserole with onions, topped with adagio and feta.

John Dalton was our mover back in 2010 (this story was published in Rockford in Rock River Times back then), when I asked him, “Are you related to those criminals?”

He laughed and affirmed, as I watched his helper-mover guys’ faces register some alarm.

images-5   “Outlaws sound so much better, more romantic than criminals, don’t you think?” I asked at brunch.

He chuckled–a very good sense of humor.

“Tell me the Jesse James story,” I asked.

“My dad has a letter written to his great-grandfather…from Missouri…from my grandfather’s first cousin: ‘I’m babysitting our cousins again, and that little Jesse (that would be Jesse James) is the meanest dickens.’ I’ve read the letter. They were U.S. Marshalls at one time, but definitely outlaws and rogues and whatever else you want to call them.” John related.

“They killed peope in the Old West, right?” I asked.

“I don’t think they killed that many people,” he explained. “They got shot to pieces in Coffeeville, Kan., trying to rob two banks at once. That’s what the Dalton Gang is really famous for–getting their tails shot off in Coffeeville, trying to rob two banks on Saturday when everybody was in town shopping. As word of the bank robbers went off, the hardware store handed out rifles and bullets; everybody was shooting at them.”    images-4

“Wow.”

“It’s well known Jesse James pre-dated the Dalton about a generation, maybe a generation and a half,” John continued. “They were second cousins to the Jameses.”

“Cousins of your great grandfather.”

“Right. Our family was in Kentucky and split when they came from overseas, Ireland. Some went to Missouri and mirgrated to Kansas; others went into Illinois with the promise of cheap farmland.”

John’s family ended up in Salem, Ill. about 115 miles from Cairo (prnounced by the locals, according to John, Kay-Ro).

illinois_s “Southern Illinois has the worst English on the face of the Earth. That really nice English they talk in Chicago, it doesn’t go that far south.”

John is an authentic humorist, in the style of Mark Twain and other homespun storytellers. He is quite a treasure and wants to write–which I encourage him to do. But, in 2010, he was running his moving company, in the tradition of three generations of movers, not farmers.

“My grandfather was a mover, my dad was a mover, a couple of uncles, all in Salem, about 17 miles east of St. Louis. My family started a moving company back in 1928: Dalton Transfer Company. We changed to van lines, then moving and storage. We moved the Midwest to the East Coast. The commerce commission took over, and my grandfather could have gotten cross-country rides…really valuable. But he vowed never to leave the areas. ‘I just need these states here,’ he said. Nowadays they give it away,” John said, “At one time, it was a valuable commodity.”

“What do you think of Starving College Student movers–those kinds?”

“We live in the greatest country on the face of the earth; anybody can set out to do anything.” John said. “Becoming president is a little bit hard (he said this in 2010), but if your sights are on having a beauty shop, you can do it. If you want to start a moving and storage company…,” his voice gentle, sincere.   unknown

John started riding with his dad at 5; loves his memories.

“I’m attempting to write a book about that, “he said. “A littel slow. Hope (readers) come to love this (moving business) as much as I do.”

“What part is fun?”

“Meeting new people. learning what they do, learning about their lives.” “There’s a story in everybody–that you’d actually be interested in reading.”

“That’s my concept here,” I agreed.

“I can remember getting spanked when I was 5 for breaking a piece of furniture,” he said. “Dad was teaching us how to pad furniture. Yu know, those nesting tables where one table goes under the other.We snapped one leg of of each table by getting the rubber band too tight. We asked him about that when we were in our 30s. He laughed, said he’d never have spanked us, but he was loading another driver’s truck. that’s what upset him. I broke somebody else’s stuff.”  unknown-3

“That could have given you a bad feeling abut the business–but instead it made you respect what you were doing, and your dad,” I observed.

“Going out with Dad, I saw the United States three or four times before some kids had even made it to St. Louis,” he said.

John loves discovering new things. He considered architecture.

“I’m very mathematical, good at drawing,” he explained. “I found out architects don’t make anything, unless they’re a senior (status). You come out of school and get paid peanuts.”

In the 70s, he joined the military.     unknown-4

“I didn’t go to Vietnam. I went to Germany and drank beer. A tough job but I handled it.”

 

Perfect Pitch – A blessing and a curse – Part 2

Carl’s hopes for a music career and playing his violin were altered June 23, 1998, when his Camry was struck by a delivery truck early one morning as he delivered newspapers–his summer job between semesters at Hillsdale College.  cbk

He describes his recovery.

“Broken bones?” I asked.

Unknown-1   “Many, many, many. If you want me to go from top to bottom,” he pointed to his head: “Traumatic brain injury. My skull was never fractured, so that was a mercy of God right there. What they said, the right side of my brain twisted on the stem and rubbed up against the right side of my skull. That is what put me in a coma. Major gash on the left side of my skull. The scalp was open, so I had stitches there. Going down, my left collar bone was broken.”

I couldn’t resist, “You had your seat belt on, right?” Hey, I’m a mom.  Unknown-2

“That’s what saved my life. I wore my seat belt and the air bag deployed. Both my arms and both my legs were fine, but everything else in my torso was messed up, except for my back. All my ribs were broken, resulting in both lungs being punctured. My pelvis, that’s the big bone, got broken in five places. While I was in a coma, they weren’t able to move my legs until my pelvis healed. Calcium deposits started forming under my kneecaps, completely shifting my kneecaps out of their normal spot. When I emerged from the coma, I didn’t have knees. I had lumps and wasn’t able to walk.”

After more than five months of rehab, Carl was able to go home.

“I came home the day before Thanksgiving. I was so thankful to God that I was alive, so thankful to be coming home, though my emotions were a little dampened. I just didn’t seem…my emotions were pretty numbed.  Unknown-3

“I did start trying to play the violin. I wanted to play for carol sing, like I had done in the past. I tried. I really did. It was frustrating. My left hand doesn’t work. I did play, but I wasn’t at the level I wanted.”

Carl put his violin down after that.

Unknown-5 “It’s neurological damage. Something is messed up between my brain and my hand.”

“What do you think about that,” I asked.

“All right, God. What do you want me to do now?”

He had wanted to be a music teacher.

“And, now I can’t do anything musical, really. I think God was saying, ‘Trust Me, I will lead you.’ It ended up being an experience, gradually learning to trust God. There is still hope that I could play the violin, That has never left.”

Carl took community college classes that fall, then returned to Hillsdale. “I was thrilled to be back, but things weren’t as I remembered.

I wasn’t quite so…I’m a lot sadder, more sedate than I was used to being.”  Unknown-4

He struggled to explain the (neurological) loss of emotion. He did graduate from Hillsdale, a degree in music pedagogy.”

“Music pedagogy was kind of a major they made for me. I have head knowledge, but I can’t do the physical expression.”

Our lunch at Appleby’s had had several distractions. Just then Carl saw a young woman he knew. They bantered about winter break and school being superior to employment.

“Reality,” I said.

“Reality sucks,” he responded.

“Stay in school as long as you can.”

He was sheepish, realizing this was a more candid, present, than the narrative we had been focusing on.

By 2004 Carl was weighing his options.

“Is music still a hope?” I asked.   Unknown

“A very distant hope,” he said. “If I were able to play again, I think I would get back the emotion.”

“The music itself could bring it back?”  Unknown-7

“I think so.”

He’s currently (2005) studying counseling at a seminary in St. Louis.

“What’s happening inside Carl,” I asked.

“I’m really not sure. To a certain extent, I feel a little loss of direction.”

“Do you see purpose in all of this?”

“I know there is. I don’t know. I know there is one. I’ve never had a normal life, even pre-DAO (Divinely Appointed Occurrence). That’s what I call my wreck. God does not cause sin, but he has a purpose through it, and that is a mystery which, this side of heaven, we will never be able to fathom.”

“Are you OK with that?”

“I am more than OK with that.” He paused.

Unknown-8    “I should be honest. There are other things that come into play.” He described social struggles.

He’s 25. It’s a difficult young adulthood.

“What you want back is your passion for life?”

“Yes.” “I think we’re still talking about perfect pitch,” I said.

“Emotional perfect pitch., knowing what you’re missing. It hurts.”

He reflected. I had hit a chord. His friends were IM-ing him again.  images

“Do you mind if I check my phone?” he asked.

Perfect pitch–A blessing and a curse

Carl started playing violin when he was five.

“Isn’t that unusual?” I asked.

Unknown   “Not if you’re a Suzuki student,” Carl explained. “My best friend Michael was playing the violin at 3.”

His teacher Mike Beert was a cellist for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra.

“When did your playing evolve into a career ambition?” I continued.

“I almost gave it up, by the time I was in the seventh grade. I thought nothing was happening. All I could do was play with my mom.”

“But you knew you were musical.”

“I inherited my dad’s ear for music. I have pretty good pitch. I don’t have perfect pitch, thankfully.”   absolute_pitch_image001

“Thankfully?”

He explained, “Perfet pitch is both a blessing and a curse. You hear when someone is out of tune, or whatever. I have  relative pitch. And, I’ve been musical since I was born. My parents pushed me to keep going. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started to enjoy playing the violin. I was part of the orchestra at my high school. I was able to audition for District Orchestra, was able to play in those for my sophomore, junior and senior years.”

“How did knowing that you were good affect your ambitions?”

“That kind of solidified my desire to continue music. I was planning on going to college, planning on becoming a high school music teacher.”

Our Applebee’s server arrived. Carl wanted crispy orange chicken. Very good. I ordered the spinach and artichoke appetizer.

He continued. “I was branching out in my musical interests. Exploring Celtic music. I love the style. It’s very emotive. I’m an emotive person. I show my emotions quite readily–wear my heart on my sleeve.”

“Music is a way to express yourself.”

“Mostly as an extension of my feelings. I decided on Hillsdale College in Michigan. I went into it wholeheartedly.”   Unknown

“What sold you on Hillsdale?”

“Mostly the community of students and the professor. That really was what it was all about. Closely knit, wonderful people. I didn’t want to be a number. I wanted to be a person. I guess I’ve always beeen a big fish in a small pond–although my high school was huge. I just had a great time being myself in both high school and college.”

Carl finished his freshman year in the spring of ’98. Everything was perfect. Then the summer of 1998.

“That fateful summer. I was picking up odd jobs doing whatever kind of work I could to earn a little extra money.”

Carl had barely touched his orange chicken. Our server asked if he wanted a box. Carl was focused on telling me his story.

“On a June morning at 5:30 a.m., I was in my car.”

“At that time of the morning, there aren’t many cars on the road, are there?”    images

“But, there are delivery trucks,” he said. “And that is what hit my car.”

His 1995 Camry was southbound.

“All I remember is I was at a stoplight. The truck was heading west to Cub Foods. A refrigerated meat truck. I don’t remember this. I am going by what I’ve been told. According to my grandfather, who saw what was left of my car in the junkyard, it’s a miracle I’m alive. The driver T-boned the Camry. It was totaled. The coroner was called to the scene of the wreck. They didn’t think I was alive, and if I were alive, I would probably die en route to the hospital. And, if I were able to make it, I would die on the emergency room table.”

I had to take a breath. I think I wasn’t breathing as I listened.

“When they finally did get me out of what was left of my car, they did get some faint vital signs.”

“You weren’t having ‘white light’ experiences?”

“I have no idea; I have no recollection whatsoever. The next thing I remember was somewhere two months after that, groggily coming to, as it were, in the nursing home.”

“That first two months, you were in a coma?”

“Correct. All I know is, the Lord preserved me. I have snippets in my mind.”

“Snippets.”

Unknown-1    “Looking out the nursing home window. I remember physical therapy. occupational therapy, speech therapy. Thank God insurance paid for the lion’s share. The lady, the caseworker for the insurance claims said, whatever he needs, he’ll get. That was just a miracle. I am so grateful to God for giving me that.”   Unknown

He recalls his mother’s presence.

“My mother told me, ‘You were in a car accident, Carl. The Lord spared your life.”

PART 2 continues next month.

 

 

Burning bushes, burning faith – Part 2

Unknown-2In 1995, Jane Logsdon and her husband Bean felt called to become missionaries in Israel. Jane’s initial resistance, and statement that it would take a burning bush to get her there, evolved into quite an experience.   Jerusalem-old-streets-Desktop-Wallpaper

I asked her to recap.

“You didn’t hear God say anything, right?”

“It wasn’t that God spoke to both of us thing. I did, for two seconds, think of leaving him. I mean just two seconds. It started on one side of my brain, and that’s how long it took to go from one side to the other,” she laughed, blue eyes sparkling.

“Then I thought, I’m not raising three kids by myself.”

“That’s how much you didn’t want to go to Israel.”

home-featuredcontent
Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home in Dixon, Ill.

“Marjorie, my mom and dad had just moved to Dixon. Grandma and Grandpa in the same town with us! Our friends were there. I had no inclination to go to a foreign mission field. People prepare for that for years.”

Friends suggested they go to Israel to seek answers.

“We bought airfare, told the kids we were going on a summer vacation. Prime Minister Levine was assassinated November of that year. There were bombings.”

The Logsdons arrived August 5.

“You were looking for your burning bush.”   0511-1010-0813-1341_Moses_in_the_Desert_with_the_Burning_Bush_clipart_image-1.jpg

“I was looking under every rock. The Lord wasn’t speaking. I was thinking, maybe it is an Abraham and Isaac thing. Once I give up my will Or maybe when the kids are grown up. Maybe this is a preview.

Unknown    Israel is the sixth most expensive country in the world. Milk is $6 a gallon. Gas is more than $5 a gallon.”

They toured for two weeks.

oldcity3

“We stayed inside the Old City walls. We hired, oh, rented a car. Day trips, mostly around the Dead Sea. Sunday, we went to Church of All Nations, outside of the Garden of Gethsemane, the rock where Jesus knelt and prayed. Where He said, ‘Take this cup from me, and not my will but yours, Lord.’ Finally I knelt at that rock, sobbing. I gave my will over to the Lord. It was so hard. I was 40 years old. I knew I was holding out from the Lord.   Unknown-1

That night, I remember this as if it were yesterday, we had a plan to get some falafels and bring them to the secret garden grassy area in the guesthouse. The church was on the compound. I said, ‘Why don’t we go to church?’

Bean said, ‘Okay.’.

“We looked at the bookstore, and Bean walked up to somebody–the principal of the school connected to the church. Bean had read about the Anglican school and had seen a picture of the principal. He had inquired about David Jeffrey when we had arrived on August 5. David was on vacation.

“He walks up to this guy, with throngs of people, and gives him the story of our calling. David must have thought we were two of thousands of Jerusalem-syndrome nuts. There are a lot of crazy people who go over and say they are John the Baptist, or whatever. It’s (actually got a name) called Jerusalem Syndrome.   jerusalem-syndrome-tours

”David listened to Bean politely, as the British do, and then asked Bean, ‘What do you teach?’

“Then David looked incredulous and walked over to me. After introductions, I said, ‘I am the director and head teacher of a pre-school. They’re waiting for me to get back home.”

David and the Logsdons headed for the church service.

‘Let’s talk after church,’ he said.

The pastor asked David to make an announcement. “David looked right at me and asked for prayer for a family on vacation in England. They had had a bad car accident on August 5.

David said, ‘You know these are two of our teachers. We’re kind of in a crisis. Nigel was our science teacher. Alison was our 3-year old pre-school teacher.’”   Unknown

Jane’s story was spellbinding.

“It’s like when you get a shock. Your insides do a melt,”she recalled.

“We had to go through the whole rest of the church service. That was my burning bush. Bean said I turned to him and had tears running down my cheeks. I don’t remember.”

Within ten minutes, they had housing, schooling for three kids, and jobs.

“The way the Lord prepared for us–it was amazing. We were going to a country we knew nothing about. It’s walking on faith. We were so much in the center of God’s will that we could have walked through fire.”   Unknown-2

Unknown-1They returned home and flew back to Israel eight days later. (I was talking to Jane on one of their furloughs back in Illinois.)

“We know the Lord told us we should come back (once in a while), but not to stay.

“Do you miss (Israel)?” I asked.

“I’m grieving it. Every year has a chapter.”

“Does it take the same call to come back?”

“Missionary work. Your whole mentality changes. It’s how you live your life–relationship building. I’d like to go back. Those are precious relationships.”

Burning bushes, burning faith – Part 1

thWriting about Jane Logsdon is emotional. It’s difficult to find focus because there is so much to tell.

We were dining at Roma’s Pizza in Roscoe, Ill., turning this take out place into a dine-in one. I ordered baked tortellini; Jane tried the stuffed shells with cheese and spinach.

Our friendship over five years had been mostly emailing, so I hadn’t really learned about her background.

th-3   “I’m from a southwest suburb of Chicago,” she began. Her family moved to Dixon, Ill. when Jane was an adult.

“Did you go to college to be a teacher?” I asked, knowing she is a pre-school teacher.

“No, no. Didn’t want anything to do with kids. Now I love it,” she smiles, her blue eyes intense, her smile captivating.

What she studied was French and art.    th-2

“I wanted to be a designer, but didn’t get a job doing that right out of college.” It is easy to imagine this vivacious, trim blonde being in the art world. But she went in another direction.tour-buses-parked-rustic-location-e1366139506980

“I became a tour escort for Senior Citizen Bus Tours, and traveled. You have your fall foliage up the East Coast, Florida in February, New Orleans in February and March,th-1 Door County fish boils in season. You narrate, take care of the seniors, make sure their needs are met, and tell jokes. You probably can’t picture yourself standing up for an hour and telling jokes,” she said.

“Actually I can,” I defended. “I’ve been to Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise.”

Roma’s owner served us our baked pastas.

“Parmesan? he asked, maitre’d style in this humble take-out place. He was creating ambiance for us. And the food was great, even using plastic utensils.

Jane continued, “You cover a lot of miles on a bus. Picture me, and the bus driver, the only ones under 30, uh, under 60. They were good people. They appreciated it. To sit and cover miles with them talking about their life stories…senior citizens have a lot of wisdom and experience. They’re just wonderful, they really are.”

“That’s great,” I said.

“I didn’t know when I should quit. What did it was a New Orleans trip. Feburary, coming up by Champaign, Ill. on Route 55, our bus hit three semis. I remember talking to the lady that did die, she lying in the aisle. The bus hit ice, swerved and swung.”

I listened, rapt

“The thing that saved me, the bars in the front seat.”

“Did you see it?” I asked.

“I don’t remember, the impact was so…I mean you slide then, bam, bam, bam, you’re just hanging on. It happened in a second.”

“I’m always surprised buses don’t have seat belts,” I mused. (They do now.)

th-2“The bus was totaled. What I remember is I always took my shoes off traveling on the bus. It was a long travel day.

“So…I said, I gotta get my shoes out. All of the sudden, these big arms just picked me up and carried me. It was a truck driver. I was in shock. I had walked through the bus, and talked to the lady who was in the aisle, dripping in blood…then I got off because I knew I couldn’t help anybody in the ice storm without my proper shoes. But, this guy just sat me in the cab of his own truck.”   th-3

Jane did one more trip, and then married Bean, in June, 1978.

“Bean (his nickname for Larry) and I went right into campus life, Youth for Christ.”

They did that for 18 years until 1995, when their lives dramatically changed.

“The underlying factor is that God is good,” she said, “under all of the journeys He takes us on, which can be a lot of stress and emotional trauma.I was comfortable doing professional ministry. I had my Bible studies, helped with fund-raisers. Bean had been restless for about two years. He knew God was leading him to something else, but God hadn’t made it clear yet.

“Then Bean heard God’s still small voice, booming: Take your family and move to Israel.”Jerusalem-old-streets-Desktop-Wallpaper

Bean waited two weeks to tell Jane, to see if this thought would re-occur in his mind.

“Marjorie, I directed my own pre-school. I had been a stay-at-home mom for eight years. The pre-school was my baby. I didn’t want to go to Israel, I thought. I didn’t think it would help me to see a rock that Jesus walked on. I even asked Bean, ‘Do they have highways and grocery stores?’ My image of Israel, I’m so non-political. I didn’t watch international news. It was Sunday school picture.”

After two weeks, Bean did tell Jane.

“I was looking up at the bottom of the barrel. My whole world was crashed. I told Bean it would take a burning bush to get me there. That’s where the real testimony comes into power,” she said.

Note: This story originally appeared in Lunch with Marjorie, in The Rock River Times, in the late 1990s.

Getting ready for Boomer theatre

Getting read for Boomer theatre I met Joan for lunch at Denali’s in Beloit because I knew she was directing a play at the local theatre.

I had many questions, among them why she spells her name with lower case letters. “Let me say, there’s no money in theatre,” she began.  th-1

“You cannot make a living at it. so one of the things that I had was my own consulting-training company. I found a font I absolutely loved. I did it as a marketing tool; it drew people’s attention.

“Now,” she says. to untrain them to do it the regular way would be far too challenging, and I like it.”

Her simpler explanation: “It’s little letters for a little lady.”

This petite lady has a passion for theatre that is not petite. Joan is completing her second doctorate. Her thesis: Creating a theory of directing for senior theatre production in a community theatre setting.   01f575f

“Because..?” I asked.

“Senior theatre is growing by leaps and bound,” she explained.

“In year 2000, there were 2000 community theatres. Now there are closer to three times that.

th-4     “Boomers,” she continued, “will be   different than today’s seniors. It’s not OK anymore to just do plays, charge people for it, and watch seniors make fools of themselves. Horrible,” she winced.

“A serious thing is very funny because it’s so bad, but don’t charge people to come to see that. My position is that when we increase the standards, the professionals will come.”

She believes Baby Boomers, as they age are different than seniors of past years.    th-6

“They are going to be actors, designers, or audience members. They have far more education than today’s (typical) seniors. They have far more experience in professional occupations, far greater exposure to the cultural arts. I”m talking about doctors, lawyers, accountants, plumbers, electricians. Those people will bring with them a certain set of expecations into a theatrical setting.”

th“How long before they’re here?” I asked.

“Not very long,” she smiles, almost rubbing her hands in glee.

“Here’s my goal: Not everyone wants to go play golf and make quilts, or go to Florida and play tennis. They’re not going to pay $25 to see someone sitting in a wingback chair and talk about what it was like the first time I got a computer. They want somethings intellectually stimulating, entertaining.”

Joan is from Michigan, where she earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State. She spent summers apprenticing at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, the oldest company in Michigan. That gave her experience and a philosophy.

“All those equity actors who moaned and groaned about how little work there was. I mean, I loved it, I just loved it, but in the back of my mind was, I have to support myself, and I’m not going to be able to do it in theatre.”

Joan’s hummus and pita arrived.

“Oh that looks wonderful!” with charateristic enthusiasm.

th-1

“What do you look for in a good hummus?” I asked.

“Cumin, coriander, garlic. This is good,” she said. A circuitous route took Joan through California, Ohio, Florida, and Colorado, where she completed her first doctorate in interpersonal communication at the University of Denver. But she was dedicated to community theatre. She met husband Carl at a grocery store in Colorado, and soon after were transferred to San Francisco, and then to Illinois, not Chicago.

“I felt like someone had reached across Lake Michigan with a long hook and pulled me back, because I said I would never return to Michigan until it became a cosmopolitan as Chicago.”

After a period of adjustment, Joan’s love for community theatre led her to direct for several community theatres. She became President of Main Street Players in Boone County, Illinois.

“Oh look what the board has done in three years (there) she,” she said. “We have people who are repeaters, who have 40-hour jobs, kids, family.”

“What brings them back?” I asked.

“Every time we do a show, we up the ante. That was my goal. Every show we did quality directing, scenes, publicity, organizing the theatre, and keeping it going. It’s wonderful. It’s established our credibility. It’s inspiring to the board to look at where they were and where we are.

“Community theatre is the training ground for professional theatre. That’s where the opportunities are for actors and directors. It’s the place for people who’ve never been on stage.”

Watch out for joan e Kole, Baby Boomers! she has the experience, the standards, the passion to take our local community theatres to the stars.

NOTE: This story originally appeared in The Rock River Times in early 2000’s. Joan is currently the Artistic Director at St. Mary’s Care Center’s AgeQuake Theatres in Madison, Wisconsin.

Beanie Babies, Coins and Memories – Part 3

Don and I continued lunching on our take-out pasta from Anna Maria’s in Roscoe, as we sat in his Rockton coin and Beanie Babies shop.  Unknown

We continued talking about his love for collectibles, and why he opened his store after retiring from the Rockford Police Department in 1993, even though he continued working at the courthouse for the sheriff’s department.

Unknown-1      “You could have just retired, instead of this,” I pointed out.

“My wife died,” he said. “I didn’t want to just sit at home watching the stupid television all alone. I got tired of watching the…doggone stock market.”

“Speaking of markets, this doesn’t seem like a good time to be in retail,” I commented.  Unknown-2

“I couldn’t get into my third bedroom anymore,” Don said. “Boxes all over. Beanie Babies,” he chuckled.

I wanted to know about investing in gold and silver, and about Franklin Roosevelt making it illegal to own gold bullion–punishable by prison, even though only 22 percent turned in their gold back then.  Unknown-4

“Then he closed the banks, and things were bad,” I stated.

“They haven’t gotten better still,” Don said. “Then (we started) the Federal Reserve. It’s that guy Obama’s got for running the Federal Reserve. You’d think someone like Obama, who’s an attorney, would realize this.”

“Why don’t they?” I asked.

Unknown-5    “Politics.”

“Does it make you angry?”

“No. I just wish they’d do something else. What I’m afraid of is socialized medicine. I don’t like that. I’ve talked to people from Canada and different places that have (it). It’s not very popular because their taxes went through the roof. I’m not happy about it. I didn’t vote for it.”

“Will we ever go back to the gold standard?” I asked.

“Not as long as we have Obama. They’re talking about getting rid of the paper, and going to the European-type money system.”   Unknown-6

“Based on what?” I asked.

“Socialism,” he laughed.

“Everyone will have the same money. It will all be worthless. This guy came in (here) all upset, worried to death that our money isn’t going to be worth a nickel.”

“Well, it’s not worth much more than that now,” I laughed.

“My concern is for my children and grandchildren,” I added. “You watch CNBC and wonder if these Wall Street people are confused, or whether they know.”

Unknown-7   “They’re confused,” Don said.

“The Obama administration has told everybody not to say things bad…to get people all calm.”

“We’re not getting the real news?”

“No. You’re getting phony news–politics. He knew when he went into office…everybody knows he’s…lying.”

“Do you think we’ll ever go back to prosperity?” I asked.

“I do,” he said. “it’s not a fall-apart situation. If they keep lying long enough, people will start trusting…trusting…politicians…again.”

“It’s still precarious prosperity, I think. A bomb waiting to explode,” I mused.

Unknown-8   “The politicians will make it look prosperous,” Don said. “It will take three, four, five years. We’re going to do it, and then it will drop again. It’s alway done this since we’ve been in this country–(like) back in ’29.”

“History tells us that every nation that got greedy fell,” I said. “Americans think they’re invincible.”

“They’re finding they’re not invincible…especially people losing their jobs. As long as they don’t have socialized medicine,” he reiterated. “If we get (it), taxes will go up about 50 percent, I tell you.”

One of Don’s two daughters called. His loving tone told me lots about his parenting. He has two grandchildren.

He loves family and gardening.   Unknown-9

“I’d help my (mom) out cooking…raise stuff in my own garden,” he told me. “We used to doggone can stuff. Pint jars, quarts.

Unknown-10    We’d pick black raspberries and make jellies and jam and stewed tomatoes. Big deal down in the basement…a whole wall full.”

“You’re rather domesticated,” teased.

He smiled.

“Free tip on coin collecting?” I asked.   Unknown-11

“Get an education,” he said. “Read. Depends on what you want to collect. I pay 90 cents for Indian head pennies, and sell them for a buck.”

images   “They’re worth more than Mercury dimes?” I asked.

“People want ‘em,” he said.

“Pitfalls?”

Unknown-12
Authentic Morgan dollar

“Right now, China,” he said. “Major counterfeits–Morgan dollars, peace dollars, and other valuable coin from other countries.”

Unknown-13
counterfeit Morgan dollar from China

“We’re getting bad fish, bad pet food, bad toys from China,” I said. “Now you’re saying counterfeit coins and collector stuff too? Do they have an agenda?”

“They’re going to win without shooting a shot,” Don surmised. “They’re buying pieces of our country from businesses and from the government. Counterfeit (coins) from 1949 or earlier–it’s legal in China.”

Unknown-13
Coins for sale on eBay

One of these counterfeiters brags about selling them on eBay.

“Costs him 50 cents to make a counterfeit Morgan dollar,” Don said. “He makes a thousand a day selling them to the U.S. and all over the world.”

“Does this affect your quality of life?” I asked.

“It’s going to when we get socialized medicine and all this other…socialism that Obama’s pushing,” he said.

“Parting words?”

Unknown-14    “Watch the politicians,” Don said.

“Live life like you’d like people to treat you.”
Unknown-15

 

(Note: this story originally published by The Rock River Times in 2009)

Beanie Babies, Coins and Memories – Part 2

Young Don’s dreamed of building his father’s local grocery store into a business empire. But in his first semester of college, his father sold the store.  Unknown-5

 

Unknown    Don moved to his next best dream: “Every little boy wants to be a fire or policeman,” Don said, as we lunched on baked mostaccioli from Anna Maria’s.

“My dad spent three hours trying to talk me out of it, but i wasn’t finding a job, so he told me they were hiring down at the police department.

I was the only guy out of 800 to pass the test the first time, and the first to go into the Rockford Police Department at 21.”

Don was quickly promoted from patrol to traffic, then to detective in that division.  images

“Anybody died, suicide, medical, we handled that in the white car,” he said.

“High stress? Police have a high divorce rate,” I commented.

“There’s a problem with some officers. These gals wait on you in the store–flirt like crazy. No thanks!” he emphatically stated about his own response to these flirtations.  Unknown-1

“It’s about who you are,” I said.

“That’s right.”

“How tall are you?” I asked.

“I’m 5-foot-9,” he said.

“The minimum to be a policeman.”

“Are you telling your age?” I teased.

“No.”

Unknown-2   “You didn’t have your goatee in the force,” I said.

“They don’t allow that.” Don said.

“I couldn’t wait…it (the goatee) just had to be there. Couldn’t have it for 30 years…now…nobody can tell me I can’t have it.”

Before the police force, Don spent a short time in the Air Force, but couldn’t go back after a surgery. He didn’t want to.   Unknown-3

“They were sending me…to become a paymaster,” he said.

“I’d have gone into banking, paying other airmen.”

“You were meant for business,” I said.

“Since I was 11 years old,” He affirmed.

Even as a policeman, Don was moonlighting: head of security at a local grocery store, and also traffic instructor for three counties of police departments.

“I loved to get in there and get things done,” he told me.

“Was your family supportive?” I asked.

“All the way through,” he affirmed. “Married 33 years. Not a problem.”

“They say happily married men remarry quickly,” I said.   Unknown-5

“Well, Regina died, and one year later, I was dating the girl I’m going to be marrying now,” he said.

“What’s the worst thing you saw in your 30 years of police work?” He described a murder scene so gruesome, I can’t write the details.

“Down on Harlem Boulevard,” he said.

“My partner and I were the first there…found a window open and crawled inside. He said, ‘You do upstairs, and I’ll check down here.’ Went upstairs and…looked in the door…a little girl…if I close my eyes, I can still see it. And a little dog…a hunting knife…killed it.”

“How do you live with those images?” I asked.

“You put it off and try not to think about it,” he replied.

Unknown-4    “The most rewarding experience?” I asked, eager to move on.

“Something simple,” he said.

“A football player broke his neck playing practice football; I managed to doggone stabilize the neck and everything, and get him to the hospital, and he’s up and around, walking today.”

“You saved him from being a paraplegic,” I gasped.

“Yes. There were a number of those,” Don said.

“Or, a car caught on fire, and you had to get the dang door open.”

“Do we educate people to see police as friends?” I asked.

“If they’ve got their minds made up, I don’t think you can change their minds,” he answered.

“Some people just plain hate police officers.”

“Are you a religious man?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Not brought up with it?” I pressed.  Unknown-6

“That’s the reason…Sunday. Not positive. You were sick and still had to get up, get dressed and go to church.”

“Strict parents?”

Unknown-7   “Yes. Trouble is, it wasn’t my parents taking me (to church). It was the neighbor. I don’t think it has anything to do with how I feel about God. I just don’t like church, period. There’s a bunch of hypocrites in that doggone church. And, I don’t believe in volunteering. I am not a person who volunteers their time. When I had a day off, I wanted to be working in my garden–that’s where I can talk to Him.”

Don moved to 6 acres out of the city as soon as the department allowed it.

“I was running fast a I could to get out of Rockford,” he said. “I just don’t like the city of Rockford.”

Beanie Babies, coins and memories

It’s Donald. He prefers Don. “I don’t like my middle name either,” Don informed me over our carryout baked mostaccioli from Roscoe, Ill.’s Anna Maria’s.   Unknown-1

He wouldn’t leave his shop, Don’s Coins and Collectibles, long enough to talk with me over lunch.

“What’s your middle name,” I goaded.

“Denton.” After his grandfather’s middle name.

Unknown     I had lots of questions about his trend-sensitive business, especially since I have quite a collection of Beanies myself.

Don reflected on how his late wife, Regina, had inspired his love for collectibles.

“She worked with the newborns at Rockford Hospital, and was known as the Beanie lady. She’d sit in a chair, rock the babies and the girls, the nurses, couldn’t get downstairs to the gift shop where the Beanies were. So she’d go get the Beanies for them.

“Pretty soon,” Don remembered, “we’d end up driving around, picking up Beanies from different Ty wholesalers.”

Unknown-2 “Did you anticipate their future value, or were you just helping your wife?” I asked.

“Just helping,” he said, matter-of-factly

“Then your entrepreneurial wheels started turning?”

“Yeah–there’s money to be made in this,” he recalled, punctuating the memory jog with his distinctive belly laugh.

“I would buy the meal to get the Teeny Beanie, then threw the food out,” I confessed.  Unknown-3

“Yep. I did that too,” he told me.

“Are Teenie’s still valuable?” I asked.

“No. You can’t get even 50 cents for them. They gave millions of them things out. I couldn’t drink that much coffee, so I’d go throw that in the dumpster.”

Don recalled seeing lines around the block to stores in Beanie’s heydays.

“The people running these stores were selling out in about two hours; they wouldn’t have to sell another Beanie for the rest of the month. They paid the rent, the lights, the gas bills.”

That was before he opened his own store. At first they sold the collectibles from their own home’s front yard.  images-1

“We’d put up a tent, Saturday and Sunday. We’d make anywhere from $2000 to maybe $4000 on a weekend, at about a 60 percent profit. Back then we were paying $5 and selling them for $15. A dealer pays $2.50. Some sold for $50, $60, $70. Now they’re selling for less than $5.

“But you were always into collectibles,” I said.

“I was working for my dad’s grocery store in Rockford. My dad told me I had goofed up enough at 11, so I became a butcher.”

“Aren’t there child labor laws?” I half-kidded.

“Not when you’re working for your dad,” he explained. But it was at the store that Don began to appreciate collectible coins. There was nothing better than exchanging coins out of the cash register, a penny for a penny, a nickel for a nickel, to fill all those books up,” he said, pointing to the coin books in his shop.   513HNN1AGIL._AA160_

“I had those too,” I told him.

“This bis good mostaccioli” I remarked.

“It sure is,” he agreed. “Lots of mozzarella on the top,” he added.

“When I was 16, I found out my brother was taking me.” he told me.

Unknown-4    “He collected Indian pennies that came through the store. Problem was, I would put a penny in the cash register, take it home to him, he’d give me a penny for it, and he’d run to the coin shop and get a quarter apiece for ‘em.”

“How much older was he than you?” “He was younger,” Don said.

“Let me get this straight, your younger brother was taking you for a ride?”

“Yep. Probably looked through one of my books that I never bothered to look at, the red book with the prices inside.”

“The price of ignorance,” I echoed.

“Yep, he didn’t get no more pennies.”

“Did you end up in the grocery business?”   Unknown-5

“I loved it. There was only one little problem. I went to college. I was going to be another (big name) grocer.”

“You wanted a chain?”

“Umm-hmm. I was going to move that store into a big store, then a bigger store, and then more stores.      Unknown-6

Then after one semester away, my father sold the damn store.

 

“Right under your feet! Did he tell you?”

“No. He also decided to clean out the basement while I was gone. He got rid of all the 5- and 10-cent comic books, which are expensive now. I had boxes of those.”   Unknown-7

“That would make you a little bitter,” I said.

“Yep.” Don’s stereotypic John Wayne style said much in a few words. …to be continued

No rock will out-praise this miracle child – Part 2

I tried to coax Lennox to try my creme brulee dessert at Garrett’s in Rockford. Unknown

He tightened his lips: “No, no, no.” His huge smile returned as he continued his story.

“I was baptized that week,” he told me.

“My mom was at the gate waiting with that look on her face…excited about good news. She knew God was in it from the beginning. There’s a great feeling that comes over one when you have answered the call, stepped out in faith, and watched God fulfill the reason behind it all.”

But, urgency was in his mother’s heart.

“Every year, she was always sick…in the hospital…diabetes, hypertension,” Lennox said.  Unknown-8

A call to the school beckoned Lennox home. His mother was in a coma.

“It was a 10 minute walk from the hospital,” he said.  1376414_10153267426750293_995177309_n

“On my way home, I had this sick feeling. I just broke down. Something about this time. I remember going to the bathroom, kneeling on that (outhouse) floor, and praying…for hours.”

His grandmother prayed with him, and he fell asleep.

“I woke up about 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

“All the lights were on. I knew…it was not going to be good. My grandma told me that my mom passed away.”

He felt thrown off course.

“I thought God could not do that. That is not the God I know.”

His grandmother stepped in again.  125877-124720

“God will never teach you to swim so that you will drown,” he remembered, she told him.

“If God throws you in deep waters, He is going to be your lifeline.”

4_Mama-and-Bringle“You were close to her.”

“Oh yes, because my mom was always in the hospital.” His world changed. His retired grandmother’s pension was meager. Not enough to feed one person.

“It’s a third world country; you’ve got your own responsibilities,” he explained.

“I was at the mercy of the government.

“Back at school, I was considered an orphan.”

His grandmother encouraged him. God would bring a breakthrough.

When Lennox was 16, Dave and Julie led a group of students on a Salvation Army mission trip from Rockford, Ill. to the school in Kingston.  atlanta-032

They met Lennox and fell in love with him.

“They said, ‘We love you so much, we just want to wrap you up in our suitcase and take you back with us.’” he recalled.

“They were joking.”

But Dave and Julie woke up every night, feeling God was calling them to do something. Lennox kept coming up in their prayers. They started the process of taking him back to Rockford.

“Why did they fall in love with you?” I teased.

“I would call you ebullient, like champagne.”

“Well I do have joy,” he said.

Paperwork that usually took months came through in weeks.

“What made you want to come here?” I asked him.  2554961592_7650f46acd_m

“Everybody in Jamaica wants to go to the United States…streets of gold…you can get whatever you want..eat whatever you want…peanut butter…ice cream…chocolate…more than one pair of shoes without holes…more than one Sunday best,” he reveled.

“How about when you got here?” I asked.

“I don’t think it was different than what I expected,” he said.

“It was better. I landed at O’Hare. Tall buildings, beautiful cars, big streets, highways, landscaping, no rusted, galvanized zinc fences, no shacks. Clean no trash, but no beach. Shocking and amazing.”  10615626_976858975662756_435037484621016269_n

 

“We do have rusted fences and shacks,” I informed.

“I know that now, but not between O’Hare and Rockford,” he smiled.

Lennox felt like he had a family; he belonged.

“After my mom died, I felt like I didn’t belong. My brothers were older. There were living in my mom’s house. It was scattered for me. I was in a dormitory…wide open with beds.”

His mom had been the thread holding everything together. In his new environs, he attended Rockford Christian, and felt God’s plans were developing for him.

“I had to adjust…learn about myself, my gifts, my talents,” he said.

“I started getting involved in music, learning about praise and worship. I got involved in starting praise bands.”

Various parents of school friends helped him, which segued into participating in praise and worship in a newly forming church.

concert    When Lennox was ready to graduate, his new family decided it was time for him to make a change.   10413425_10152639380458115_633320461112999707_n

He began studies at Rock Valley College, and became part of the household of one of his friends. “It cost $16,000 a semester to be an exchange student,” he told me.

“I lived through each year not knowing if I was going to go back to Jamaica. There were times when my ticket was bought, or almost bought. I have a farewell video,” he chuckled.

A friend’s father found an immigration lawyer who said there wasn’t much to do except go to school…which meant raising $16,000 every few months. Then, she found a solution: Lennox could work as a religious occupant, a church missionary.

“One day my phone rang.” he said.    Unknown-3

“The lawyer asked if I was sitting down.”

He had finally been approved for legal residency.

“Just like your grandmother taught you…” I began.

“God never teaches us to swim to let us drown,” he finished the sentence.

He’s been back to see his grandmother several times, and recently went on a Salvation Army-led mission trip to their Kingston, Jamaica school for the Blind.

“Full circle,” I mused.

“Um-hmm.”

He works as a program director and worship leader for junior high school students at his church in Rockford.

“You were in junior high when all of this started for you,” I remembered.

“I plan on finishing my degree in music ministry,” he said.

“I would love to be a music pastor…getting my master’s in divinity.”

Lennox says he’s a homebody. He has an apartment, but still is a part of his best friend’s family.

People ask him where he gets so much energy.

“I worship with my mind, my soul, my heart, my strength, my whole body,” he explained.   Unknown-2

“I know God for myself. Like David, who went through the worst, God was always there to pick him up.

I watch Americans go to basketball games, football games, and they go crazy.
Why would I cease to move when I am in the presence of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God of the universe…in relationship with me? Why would I just stand? Why am I silent?” his buttery voice increased in volume.

“Jesus said if you don’ praise Him, the rocks will cry out,” he added.  Unknown-1

“The day I heard that, knowing about the goodness of God, His presence, His hand on me…I ain’t gonna let no rock out-praise me. There’s ain’t no way I’m gonna do that.”

(This story originally appeared in June, 2007, in The Rock River Times)