We had a perfect sunny day here in Central Illinois with temps in the 80s and low humidity. It was a free day for us since we didn't have any real plans, so we decided to do a little geocaching and check out Arcola, IL.
I had downloaded a number of geocaches to my GPS and we headed down the road shortly after noon. The first couple caches were close to the campground and easy to find. One was a little tricky but we found it quickly.
The bulk of the caches were in the Arcola, IL area and I picked that area due to the uniqueness of them. The one and only memorial to hippies is located there and we had to see it in person. Created by local artist, Bob Moomaw, this memorial celebrates the free spirit of love and peace of the 60s flower children. The memorial is read from left to right with times getting worse over the years as America changed. I don't agree with his assessment, however it was a neat memorial.
The next interesting cache was called "The Witches Cache". The story behind the cache was that a young woman disputed the conventional thinking of the day. She spoke out about issues she disagreed with and the community called her a witch. Her body was found in a field and taken to the local funeral home for viewing. After a short period she was buried under a tree to keep her spirit under check. The cache was a virtual cache in that you have to answer questions that can only be found by visiting the area. We found the cache and sent in the answer to the owner's questions and logged the cache.
We wound up visiting three cemeteries, a library, baseball field, church and other places as we searched. 10 caches were found, logged onto our list of finds and we added smiley faces. It's a geocaching thing.
Arcola is a small town and they are struggling to keep the town alive. They have come up with an interesting idea and have painted murals on buildings throughout the town. We found a number of them and enjoyed seeing them all.
Here are some of the murals we have found. Some have been cropped to remove wires, cars, etc.
There is a large Amish community in the area with horse and buggies being quite common in the countryside. We saw a number of them today and I will blog about them another time.
The Sweet Shop was a fixture of the Arcola downtown for a number of years in the middle of the 20th century. The shop, located near the corner of Main and Locust Street, displayed a vintage Coke sign hanging on the front to identify the local hangout for the teenagers of the baby boom generation. Teenagers would congregate there to enjoy a Green River from the soda fountain, enjoy a hamburger and to dance to the tunes that came out of the juke box. The last record played in the late 60s, as the location was sold to the Yoder family and became the Dutch Kitchen.
The City of New Orleans train ran through Arcola on it's way between Chicago and New Orleans until 1963. Many small towns were served by the train, however they were dropped along the way to help speed up service.
Arcola was the primary source of broom corn in the US and the industry lasted from the 1860s to the 1920s. They hold a broom corn festival each year to remember how important it was to the area.
1919, a team of employees from the Staley Manufacturing Company in Decatur came to Arcola to play against the local team, the Independents. The Staleys won that game 41-0.
A group of Arcola businessmen, humiliated by the loss, arranged for a rematch. These businessmen decided to recruit the best players available, and pay them to play against the Staleys.A local railroad conductor was designated as the “recruiter” and enlisted the help of several college football players from Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Illinois.
The Staleys heard about the team Arcola had assembled and never arrived for the game. The following year, A.E. Staley employed George Halas to organize a team after the one Arcola had created for that game. Later, these Decatur Staleys became known as what is now the National Football League's Chicago Bears.
The town of Bagdad was settled a little west of present day Arcola and when the Illinois Central railroad was built near present day Arcola, the town of Bagdad was moved lock stock and barrel to the new town of Okaw. When it was pointed out that there already was an Okaw in Illinois, the town was renamed Arcola.
John Barton Gruelle was born in Arcola in 1880. When his young daughter died as a result of multiple vaccination shots he created Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls to help with his grief. He made the dolls limp to show how lifeless she was as she lay dying from the vaccinations.
In 1941, an early morning bus traveling south on Route 45 arrived in Arcola. The passengers had departed Chicago at a late hour and the passengers were hungry. Because the passengers were black, they had been refused service in place after place on their journey south until they met Joe Ernst, the manager at a small restaurant in Arcola. When they asked if he would serve them, Joe quickly responded “yes” as long as they paid. A passenger introduced herself as Ella Fitzgerald, though the name meant nothing to Joe at the time, she promised Joe that she would run the register while Joe cooked and would ensure that everyone paid. Joe twice ran out of food and had to make several trips to local stores to feed the hungry crew. True to her word, Ella collected payment from every customer. Out of gratitude to Joe, and much to his embarrassment, Ella announced that she would sing a special song and so she serenaded Joe before the group left the restaurant. Word soon spread throughout town what Joe had done and the next day when Joe returned to open the restaurant, the owner had changed the locks and Joe learned that he had been fired because he served a bus of “colored” people.
We also visited a few other small towns in the area and were impressed with the community spirit in them. It's something you don't see in large cities and that is a shame.
The sun was setting when we arrived back near the campground and Gerry captured this neat photo over Lake Shelbyville.
That was our day, how was yours?