24

Chapter Twenty Four

THE DANVILLE DECADE

Four Generations of Vaughns: Leona Marie Tate Vaughn, Lawrence Eugene (Larry) Vaughn, Jr., Jessie Beulah Phillips Vaughn, Marjorie Gwendolyn White Vaughn, Lawrence Eugene Vaughn. Front row, Steven Lance Vaughn and Lawrence Eugene Vaughn III (Link)

TABLE OF CONTENTS (Some Topics Under Development)

  • City Life
  •    The Move to Danville
  •    The Oak Street Apartment
  •    The Boston Road Trip
  •    Radio Interviews and Shows
  •    Waiting for the Flyer
  •    The C&EI Depot
  •    Hauling Freight
  •    “Danville Perspective” for The Chicago-Danville Flyer
  •    Radio Commercial Production
  • 613 Plum
  •    Kickapoo State Park
  •    Berkhalter Ambulance Service
  •    Terry Osborne
  •    Civil Defense Shelter Management
  • 924 Sunset Ridge Drive
  • Danville Police Department
  •     Suzanne Barker
  •     The Popcorn Incident
  •     Burning Trees
  •     Carver Park
  •     Color Guard
  •     Presidential Honor Guard
  • Police Wives Halloween Party
  •     Detective Division
  •     Burglary Ring
  •     Crime News
  •     Baptist Temple

City Life

Vermilion Street Mall ca 1972

In 1964,  I was offered a news director position at WDAN, Danville, Illinois, located south of Chicago. I was excited to be closer to “the news” in Chicago, and moved, with my young wife to Danville. We had very little, and carried all of our household goods in a single 4X8 foot rental trailer towed behind our white standard shift 1962 Ford Falcon Sports.Futura with red interior.

I liked the idea of  living in Danville, It was a “city” compared to Hannibal, where I was born and raised, and Boonville, where I first lived after being married. It meant a higher wage, and a larger community with a much larger entertainment base.

Danville, I later discovered, had one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation, and was a popular “stopping off” spot for gangsters going back and forth from Chicago to Indianapolis and Cincinnati. I worked in news gathering, and was fascinated by the local “police blotter,” the records of arrests and reports at the local police station and sheriff’s office. The police department armory held a machine gun allegedly discarded by John Dillinger on one of his rants through town.

Meanwhile, in Danville local news, there were mysterious murders and violent crimes committed by unknown never-seen persons, prostitution was organized and fairly openly practiced, and gambling casinos were found even in fraternal and military veteran organizations that operated “open bars” for the general public. It was a lot for a small town boy to grasp!

The Move to Danville

When we moved to Danville, in 1964, Lea and I had been married only a few months, and it was a very big step for her to move so far away from her family. It was exciting for me, and just felt like the next “right thing” to do to move up the ladder to success. I had talked by phone to the “morning man,”  the most senior announcer at the station, and asked him to locate an apartment close to the radio station so we could get quickly settled. He did so, and we hitched up the trailer and headed to lands unknown with about $120 cash to our names.

During the drive, somewhere west of Decatur, Illinois on Route 36, late at night, we emerged from under an overpass at highway speed, and were caught by a sudden gust of wind that caught the trailer and pushed it sideways, dragging the car behind it. I had no control whatsoever, and was drug tail first  into the deeply piled snow banks in the median between the east and west bound lanes. We were there hardly any time at all before a good samaritan arrived on the scene with a four wheel drive truck and tow strap, who easily towed us back up on the highway.

We continued on to Danville in drifting snow, now a little more cautiously when entering and exiting overpasses on the highway. We arrived in Danville very late at night, and not knowing where anything was located, found ourselves at an International House of Pancakes on North Vermilion Street, where we got something to eat.

We asked our server for approximate directions to Oak Street, where the apartment was located, and after a refreshing break, we followed her directions to the apartment, which was in a large house that had been divided into several units. After finding the correct location with little trouble, we parked on the street in front of the house, retrieved suitcases and bedding, and headed inside to find the owner, who let us into the apartment.

The Oak Street Apartment

Our living quarters turned out to be essentially a two-room accommodation upstairs in an old two story house. The upstairs had been converted into four apartments. The front door opened into the living room, which had a cooking area, not even really a kitchen, along the side of the room.

The bedroom was down three steps, and had a bathroom you practically had to back into to shut the door. It was easier to get in and out of our double bed over the footboard, because there was so little space alongside.

I was very happy. My lovely bride was a wonderful homemaker and had the apartment looking very nice in no time. Meanwhile, I was starting a new job, learning the ropes, and learning about our new area.

Kickapoo State Park was on the edge of town, and was a delightful park with large lakes, tall bluffs, and towering trees throughout. We spent many happy days there over the years, and frequently took visiting family members to the park for picnics. The tree shaded camping areas offered picnic tables, outdoor grills, lake access, and lots of fishing spots.

The radio station I worked for, WDAN, was at that time owned by Gannett Corporation, which also owned the Danville Commercial News daily newspaper. WDAN was housed on the second floor of the Commercial News building at 17 North Street.

As news director, I made friends with a newspaper reporter for the
Commercial News who was about my age, and had lengthy discussions about what was going on in the news locally. He wanted to be an investigative reporter, but was currently stuck on the Byline desk, writing about daily community activities. I shared with him everything I learned from the police blotter and from talking to policemen at the station.

I had an interesting neighbor who lived in the apartment across the hall. We’ll call him Jim. He was a ruggedly built, handsome, man, who was in the process of building up a new F-600 5-ton Ford truck he had just purchased to haul highway freight in interstate commerce. He was having the frame shortened, and a fifth wheel added, along with all the required accessories for Interstate Commerce hauling.

He had a large steel compartment built out of ¼” steel, attached to the rear of the conventional cab. It stretched the full width of the truck, was about 18” front to back, and reached from the frame to the the bottom of the rear window of the cab. It had two large padlocks, one on each side of the split lid. I was told it was for highway equipment, but I never saw the compartment open.

Jim drove a late model Corvette Stingray, was a snappy dresser, and always had a large wad of cash in his pocket. He made frequent trips to Chicago, and when he was home, he parked his truck on the side street, where it was always in view from his living room window.

The Boston Road Trip

I got to make one road trip with Jim to Boston, Massachusetts, where he delivered Stanray fiberglass boats from the plant in Danville to the Sears store. In those days the boats were not covered when being transported, and the wind would catch the boats’ cavities and push hard against the trailer, making it really difficult to stay within the lane. I didn’t have, what back then was called a “Chauffeur’s License,” so couldn’t drive the truck. I didn’t regret that much at all after watching him struggle with crosswinds.

Another of his big challenges was navigating the narrow streets of Boston to reach the Sears store where he dropped off the trailer, After getting a signature verifying receipt, we bobtailed, or moved without a trailer, to a large warehouse nearby, where he picked up another load.

After checking the seal on the rear door, he backed the truck under the trailer, and I got to see how the fifth wheel latched to the trailer, and how he cranked up the leveling jacks and hooked up the hoses. Then we were off to Chicago to drop the trailer, and then bobtailed back home to Danville.

Over the Road

It was an interesting trip, and I got to see a little bit of the inner workings of the freight trucking industry. My grandfather White, and his son, Wallace (Jack), both had been over-the-road drivers, but I never previously gotten to actually experience what that was like.

On the trip to Boston, we spent the night in a truckers motel, used the truckers bathroom and shower facilities at truck stops, and had meals with other truckers who shared stories about their experiences on the roads of North America. It was a lifestyle that didn’t appeal to me, but I was glad to have an inside view.

After about a year of driving his Ford truck, he traded for an International Harvester cabover tractor, which he called an “Emeryville.” He said that he needed a bigger truck to haul heavier loads. The “cabover” designation was because the driver’s cab sat over the engine, rather than behind the engine, as in a conventional style truck.

The truck was nicknamed an “Emeryville” because the International Harvester cabover trucks of those days were built in Emeryville, California, now the home of Pixar Animation Studios. International Harvester later morphed into Navistar.

Radio Interviews and Shows

I suppose that the road trip to Boston made me curious about how different industries work, and spawned my interest in doing a series of business interviews for WDAN. I created a feature broadcast series titled “Danville Perspective” in which I talked to various business men of the community to learn a little more about how their businesses operated and what set their business apart from competitors.

Since our offices were downtown, I started with businesses right in the area of North and Vermilion Streets, and then expanded out from there. Walgreen Drug Store was just across the street, and was one of my favorites because of their lunch counter. I learned to love my Dutch apple pie with melted cheddar cheese and cinnamon sauce on the top at that Walgreens.

Other businesses back then were the Carson, Pirie, Scott Department Store that had all things for the home, Woodbury Bookstore, a classy place, filled with hardcover books, stationery, greeting cards, and nice gifts. Lea and I used to go there to purchase variety packs of tea with intriguing names like Earl Grey, Constant Comment, and Cozy Camomile.

Deutsch Brothers was known for fine men’s clothing and beautiful window displays with hats, shirts, silk ties and cashmere coats displayed amid wood paneling, stained glass windows and elegant showcases. Alexander Sporting Goods, just south of Harrison carried leather  Spalding baseball gloves, Wilson basketballs, Garcia fishing reels, Winchester rifles and Case pocket knives. It was a guys leisuretime dreamland.

Down at the end of Vermilion, at Main, was the Palmer Bank building, resembling a fortified temple with tall limestone columns, white marble lined interior walls and enormous brass light fixtures. It was the epitome of strength and security. It made one proud to do business there.

Nearby was one of my longtime sponsors, Meis (pronounced Meese) Brothers Department Store on the southeast corner of Main and Hazel. Meis Brothers featured a huge variety of appliances, clothing, china and other household goods, and a long ramp to the massive toy department on which the children loved to play.

Eventually, the popular series, sponsored by Woodbury’s bookstore for several years, led to a referral by the local Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad agent to the home office about the series, and resulted in a road trip in the cab of a “Chicago-Danville Flyer” passenger train, and a return trip in a freight locomotive

The C&EI Danville Flyer

I waited on the designated morning for the passenger train to pick me up at the Danville depot, where I had coffee and a sweet roll provided by the railroad agent. The cafe in the depot was bustling with passengers waiting for the train to arrive on its morning trip to Chicago.

The Flyer was taking a little longer to get out of the barn that morning, and the agent was trying to make sure everyone was prepared to board quickly during the train’s brief stop. In those days freight trains would stop at nearly every little town between Danville and Chicago, to pick up mail, freight and other items. The “Danville Flyer,” however, was a passenger  express, and ran at high speed before slowing in Chicago.

When standing outside the depot, peering down the track for sight of the oncoming train, you could hear car horns echoing in the Fairchild Street underpass that dropped under the railroad tracks a block to the north.

Everyone had to blow their horn, it seems, just to hear it echo in the half-block long tunnel. If there was a pedestrian walking through, the honks got a little longer for more emphatic echos. It didn’t take much to entertain us back then!

The C&EI Depot

Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad Depot in Danville, Illinois (postcard)

The C&EI Railroad Passenger Station was built in 1916-1917, after the Fairchild Street underpass was finished. The depot cost $130,000 and opened on June 2, 1917. During the 1960s, the C&EI RR route went from Chicago to Danville and then split with one line headed southeast to Evansville, Indiana, and the other turned southwest toward Chester, Illinois and the Mississippi River.

The depot seemed enormous with its vaulted ceilings in the waiting rooms, mahogany benches and woodwork, mosaic tiled floor and the diner-like restaurant which was open 24 hours a day. Rec Cap porters loaded travelers luggage on carts and stood in the shade of the depot’s canopy as the train approached.

I had the radio station’s portable reel-to-reel tape recorder, and made sure to take extra reels of tape and extra “C” batteries. The recorder used 3″ plastic reels and held about 15 minutes of recording tape on each reel. It used a crystal type microphone which had a stop/start switch which was handy for pausing recording.

I also carried magnetic earphones so I could monitor background noise. WDAN’s chief engineer, Bill Shoop, equipped it with a carry strap so I could sling it from my shoulder to leave my hands free to hold notes in one hand and the mike in the other.

The railroad had granted my request for an engine ride followed by interviews with crew and passengers to help publicize the railroad, its people, and its services. This was in the mid-sixties, and passenger service for many railroads was drying up. Granting this interview was a public relations move by the railroad to get some favorable publicity for their services.

I was privileged to ride in the engine so I could interview the local Danville crew about the “Flyer’s” operations, and later in the trip I would talk to the conductor’s coach crew and several  passengers for their insights.

Danville Flyer pulled by EMD E7A #1100 35 miles south of Chicago on November 26, 1965

It turned out that getting from the engine to the trailing coaches was facilitated by a brief stop on the line necessitated by a freight train which hadn’t yet cleared a crossing ahead, and the “Flyer” had to wait for a “go” signal when the track was clear.

I was prepared to climb down the side ladder from the cab, and walk back to the coaches on the graveled trackside path, but the engineer took me through a door behind his seat, and alongside the two 12-cylinder engines and air equipment to a door in the rear that opened to the entrance to the crew lounge, tool and supply car behind. And, through that car were the coaches, one of which had a small deli counter with sweet rolls and coffee.

The trip was very interesting. I interviewed many Danville area residents in the coaches and lounge car, many of whom were regular “Flyer” trippers, and had stories to tell of various experiences on the road ranging from interesting people to memorable events and holiday themed trains. Many had stories of their waits in Dearborn Station, where trains were coming and going at a steady pace, mishaps, chance meetings, and colorful people.

The locomotive’s horns ruined many parts of interviews that would have to be edited out later when putting together the programs. I quickly learned to just wait until we went past the crossing they were sounding the horn for, and then ask the interview question over again. That was a challenge when passing through several towns that had multiple railroad crossings.

Hauling Freight

My return trip was made in the engine of a freight train that was heading south to Evansville several hours before the “Flyer” would start its evening run. This locomotive was not nearly as nice and clean as the Flyer’s engine. The exterior paint job was quite faded, and the interior of the cab was in need of a good sweeping and wiping down. The paint on the ends of the throttle and engine brake handles was worn away right down to the bare brass metal from constant use.

This was a hard working engine, and had been for many years. There was a long line of freight cars coupled to the rear, but I barely noticed, as I entered from the short hood end and stepped into the cab.

The engine noise was louder than in the Flyer’s cab, but the horns were located at the end of the long hood, away from the cab, which was much easier on my ears, because the Flyer had the horns mounted right above the cab. I began to understand, however, when the horns were required to be sounded, and that there were four parts of the required signalling.

C&EI EMD GP-7 Road Switcher #222 at unknown location

The locomotive for the return trip was an older EMD GP-7 Road Switcher with three seats in the cab. Two were at the windows on either side for the engineer, on the right, and the fireman on the left, with a third seat  located behind and between the other two. That seat doesn’t offer much of a view of the roadside, but was intended for supervisory personnel when on board to train or evaluate the cab crew.

This was my designated seat for the trip, although I spent most of the time standing behind the engineer or fireman, holding my microphone up close so we could hear them over the 16-cylinder engine noise.

As we were heading south, and not yet out of the lattice work of rails in the south Chicago area, the fireman got out of his chair and stood next to the back wall behind his seat, and I noticed the engineer leaned way forward and over his control stand. The fireman told me to “come stand here,” pointing to where he stood. He said, “We’re going by an area where they throw rocks, or sometimes shoot, at the windows.”

The return trip to Danville was much longer, and frankly, fairly boring after a while, as we often had to go slow, or completely stop on a siding to wait for another train pass. Sometimes we had to wait for over half an hour. And, to make things worse, I was hungry, and didn’t know to bring something to eat or drink with me.

It was interesting, though, to get to go up into the nose of the locomotive to pee in the “glory hole” tube, through which I could see the crossties pass below me. I’m not sure why, but that memory always stuck with me. I guess it was, perhaps, because I hadn’t thought about train crews needing to relieve themselves, and connected that with the signs in the passenger coaches that said, “Do not use (restroom) while stopped at the station.”

I’m not sure we got home any sooner than if I had waited for the Flyer to make its return trip, but it was certainly interesting to be able to ride in the freight locomotive, and see how different the operating practices were between the passenger service, and the just “down and dirty” everyday work of picking up and dropping off of freight cars, filling out paperwork, and examining passing trains for equipment problems the crew may not have noticed.  

“Danville Perspective” for The Chicago-Danville Flyer

I had collected a variety of sound recordings like engine noise and horn blasts while on the trains, but discovered while I was editing the shows together that I needed some additional sounds like trains passing by at various speeds, horn blasts in the distance, and in particular, the bell from outside the cab. Over the next few days I picked various spots along the route to record the needed sounds for my foley collection.

The recordings I made were eventually edited down into a series of ten 15-minute features that were sponsored by local merchants, and actually ran a second time a few weeks later due to requests to run the series again. After that second run, the edited programs, original interviews and foley tapes were stocked in the radio station’s library where they eventually passed into history.

Radio Commercial Production

One of the duties of a staff announcer at a radio station was to voice live commercials while performing a shift of scheduled events, such as newscasts, weather forecasts, music programs and, often, talk programs that included incoming phone calls or interviews.

Often some part of a shift might include a period of recording commercial messages in an adjoining studio, and many commercials included multiple characters, usually other staff announcers, sound effects and background music.

Shifts were usually broken down into Morning, which included signing the station on the air at a designated time, Mid-day, which usually included the hours following morning drive time through the 3-hour lunch period, 11:00- 1:00, Afternoon, Evening Drive, and Nighttime.

The station’s most popular personality, or the senior announcer, had the Morning shift, and some stations also used a personality during Evening Drive. Nighttime announcers were often local people who worked part time.

I enjoyed doing commercial production and collecting sound effects for that purpose. I had created a descent foley library on reel-to-reel tape when I moved from KWRT in Boonville, Missouri to WDAN, in Danville, Illinois. There were all kinds of sounds in the city that I hadn’t experienced previously, and one that stood out for me was the one that won the Illinois Broadcasters Association Production Award for WDAN.

At that time I owned a 1966 MG Midget mK ii convertible sports car with a four cylinder engine, dual carburetors, and wire wheels with speed spinners. One of WDAN’s advertising sponsors was a European auto dealership, and I had an idea to spice up their commercials with sound effects made with my Midget.

I put some thought into locations on the car where I could get a variety of sound effects i.e. a wheel well, on the front bumper, in the cabin with the top off and windows down, and on the rear bumper near the exhaust pipe.

It took a little Rube Goldberg rigging to get the analog tape recorder and microphone attached in these locations without doing any damage to the car or the equipment, but all went well. I took the car out driving on a variety of roads and locations, recording three minutes at a time, because that’s how long the reels of magnetic recording tape allowed.

So, there was a lot of starting and stopping to change tapes and planning of the next recording. But, in the end, I achieved some excellent sound effects to add to my foley library.

I used several of the recordings in a batch of new commercials for the dealership and they received excellent comments from customers about the improved quality of their advertisements. I submitted three of the series in the annual broadcasters association Commercial Production category.

One of the submitals won first place for the radio station! It was the sound bite taken from the rear wheel well when I slowed, then pulled on the emergency brake and slid the car a few inches to a stop on that light dusting of grit that covers paved parking lots.

Danville Civil Defense

One of my duties at WDAN was to refer potential guests to be interviewed on a segment of the morning shift produced, at that time, by Dave Reno. On one of my stops at the Danville Police Department to check the blotter, I met David Palmer, County Civil Defense Director.

He asked me what is involved in getting some public service messages on the air. I asked about his idea and he described his interest in creating a group of trained civilians to operate Fallout Shelters in case of nuclear attack.

He soon appeared on WDAN’s morning show, and during the interview, described the various posts and duties involved in managing a shelter after a nuclear bomb had been dropped and the population had sheltered in one of the many underground shelters provided by the Vermilion County Civil Defense agency.

Training was available for volunteers in a number of disciplines ranging from medical, food, sanitation, safety and shelter management. Several telephone calls came in to the studio from listeners who wanted particular details, and several other calls were made to the Civil Defense office by folks who were interested in volunteering.

Soon, Palmer had an adequate list of volunteers to get his program underway. He had peaked my interest, so, I kept in touch with his progress, and soon was engaged in designing a logo for the Vermilion County Civil Defense Agency, which was adopted immediately upon completion.

I had previously completed training in Red Cross CPR which was the requisite to working in emergency services in those days, and I volunteered to take the Civil Defense Medical Trainer courses.

The series of classroom and home study classes equipped me to use the U.S. Civil Defense Agency produced films to teach volunteers some of the rudimentary skills and practices needed to administer the health program in a fallout shelter.

One of the films in the series dealt quite explicitly with childbirth, and the procedure for delivering a baby. I had one lady attending the class who fainted and completely fell out of her chair to the floor when the video of the vaginal area appeared on screen with the infant’s head beginning to crown. She was soon fine, but, needless to say, she chose not to complete the training.

I went on to complete additional training to become certified as a Civil Defense Shelter Manager, including courses and a lock-in exercise with real time problems introduced throughout the weekend exercise.

Sample Table of Contents of the Shelter Management Manual produced by the Office of Civil Defense Staff College, Battle Creek, Michigan

The hardest part of managing a shelter would have been turning away those who sought shelter after the doors had been closed and locked because of radiation levels reaching critical levels. Each shelter would be indefinitely closed to anyone on the outside until residual radiation dropped to safe levels, which could take several months.

Parts of this shelter management training came into good use decades later, in October 2018, when Austin, Texas, our home at the time, issued its first ever BOIL WATER NOTICE due to historic flooding.

The city urged residents to cut consumption of water by 15-20 percent as the water treatment plant was struggling to clean the water in our reservoir lakes dirtied by silt and sediment carried downstream by the raging Colorado river.

The city also urged that tap water not be used for drinking, cooking or making ice without first boiling it for three full minutes to ensure no microorganisms were unknowingly consumed.

As soon as I got the text alert notifying me of the Boil Water Notice early Monday morning, I hurried to the nearest grocery store to stock up on bottled water. To no avail! There was a handwritten note taped to the front door stating that they were out of water!

I drove around the area looking for other sources, but saw notices taped to the front door of most retail doors carrying the same message. Fast food restaurants were not open. They had no equipment to boil water and no way to store large quantities of ice.

Still, by late the next week restaurants were not serving iced drinks, offering instead, chilled bottled water or other bottled beverages.We had about half a case of bottled water at home, a gallon container of distilled waternd a Dutch Oven, which I knew held about a gallon of water,

By mid-week those measures seemed to be working as plants were treating enough water to meet demand and reservoirs were refilling,

Organized Crime

The news in those days contained fascinating stories of seemingly untouchable Chicago organized crime figures and the ruthlessness of their attacks. Coming from a home where my father was a career military policeman who often worked in cooperation with the local police force on special investigations, we considered ourselves “clean cut,” and placed high value on personal integrity.

It was hard for me to fathom how people could be so cruel and violent! But, when I entered the news gathering business, I became more aware of behind-the-scenes political dealings and how things really worked.

During the time I was in broadcast school, in 1962, the bodies of Chicago burglars Jimmy Miraglia and Billy McCarthy were found in the trunk of a car on Chicago’s West 55th Street. They were badly beaten and their throats were slit. They reportedly had, some time before, killed three people in a robbery attempt in a neighborhood called “off limits” by “Outfit” brass. The “Outfit” is what Chicago’s organized crime syndicate was called.

It was also revealed in later court proceedings that McCarthy was tortured to find out the whereabouts of his partner, Miraglia. One of the tortures that McCarthy was subjected to was having his head put in a vice that was slowly tightened. But, he refused to talk until one of his eyes popped out!

Then McCarthy gave up Miraglia’s whereabouts and McCarthy was soon killed. The torture deaths of these two men is still known as the “M&M Murders” in Chicago crime annals.

Chicago was famously home to the American mafia figure Al Capone. In 1963, the FBI’s intensified surveillance of the Chicago mafia big boss Salvatore “Sam” Giancana was initiated at the urging of the attorney general. On Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated while being driven in a presidential motorcade, in Dallas, Texas.

It is widely and hotly debated to this day whether the Chicago “Outfit” had anything to do with supplying the gunman/gunmen who killed President Kennedy, but suspicions ran very high that the Giancana crime family was involved.

Robert F. Kennedy’s biographer, Evan Thomas, has written that after the assassination, RFK feared that his fight against organized crime as attorney general might have gotten his brother killed. Yet, at the time, the Warren Commission declared that one Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone in the killing. But, Oswald, himself, was, then, assassinated in broad daylight, while surrounded by law enforcement, by a lone gunman, Jack Ruby, before Oswald could go to trial.

In 1972, as a police detective, I attended a law enforcement course on Organized Crime in Chicago and participated in a two-hour training surveillance detail of a part of Giancana’s prostitution operation. I, along with two other student officers and an instructor, drove to a designated location in unmarked sedans.

The instructor’s car had a modified 35mm film camera hidden in a large woman’s hat positioned in the rear window deck. He parked in a previously selected location where the camera had a good view. We parked across the street in another car back two spaces facing the building in question.

The training detail’s purpose was to teach us how to surveil and photograph people entering and leaving a particular location. The training officer managed the camera from the front seat with a remote shutter release that captured one photo each time he depressed the trigger.

As students, our job was to let him know when a suspect was in range of the camera, and then to log as much detail about each visitor as possible. The images and log were later matched up and presented to the class.

While I was assigned to DPD’s plainclothes detective division, I was charged with the ongoing task of identifying possible members of a crime syndicate in Danville, and to gather any evidence uncovered.

I was only a few months into this task when I took the sergeant’s exam and was promoted. There was no room for another sergeant in the detective division at the time, so I was reassigned to patrol division, and the organized crime investigation passed to another detective.

Other Topics Under Development:

613 Plum

Kickapoo State Park

Berkhalter Ambulance Service

Terry Osborn

Civil Defense Shelter Management

924 Sunset Ridge Drive

Danville Police Department

Suzanne Barker

The Popcorn Incident

Burning Trees

Carver Park

Color Guard

Presidential Honor Guard

Police Wives Halloween Party

Detective Division

Illinois Bureau of Investigation

Burglary Ring

Crime News

Baptist Temple

The church was an important part of my youth, and after marrying and moving to a new state to pursue my career, we continued to be active in church activities. The church we belonged to was a traditional Baptist church with a very comfortable, if time worn, worship routine. My wife was baptized there in that church in November 1966, while nine months pregnant with our first child, Link. I had been baptized as an adolescent.

Shortly after our second son was born in 1969 we joined a newly established fundamental Baptist church that was meeting in a rented church building. The minister’s messages were thought provoking and rousing, his teaching style expository. All teaching was done directly from the scripture itself.

The young pastor, new to the community, had a very aggressive community outreach program, tirelessly reaching out to teens and youth to bring them into the church family. The music director was a reformed “bad apple” who barely skirted a stint in prison before getting his life straightened out and turning to a music ministry. Both had brought their young families to the community to establish a new church whose aim was to reach into new areas of ministry.

The charismatic pastor had a vision for building a grand church complex and grounds including a full service retirement community for elderly church faithful. The congregation was enthusiastic about the idea, and the community was surprisingly, and liberally, responsive. Fundraising efforts for the proposed Baptist Community exceeded expectations. The church seemed to be attaining its goals much more quickly than projected.

Donations of land suitable for a church complex, including a retirement home and hospital, were received. Vehicles were donated to help transport members and guests to church on Sundays. The number of volunteers, and the treasury, quickly swelled. The congregation grew dramatically.

It was a wonderful time to be involved in the Lord’s ministry. My wife and I were very heavily involved, working to increase membership and soliciting contributions to the church, hosting weekly bible study, and I even drove one of the church buses on its route.

I was seriously considering entering the church’s ministry on a full time basis. The pastor had talked to me several times about joining the team and devoting all my time to His service. It seemed to me that I was being led to make the decision. I didn’t really want to leave my employer at the time, but was almost ready to take the step. It seemed natural. My great-grandfather, grandfather and an uncle were Baptist ministers, and it seemed my ministry was going to be in church service, too.

Then, one morning, the pastor, his family, and his entire staff, disappeared. They couldn’t be found. The treasury was gone, too! Members’ phones were ringing off the hook as we attempted to figure out what was going on. It eventually was determined that the pastor had manipulated all donations to be put into his own name until formal church foundations could be established. So, he owned everything he took with him. And, he left the church flat broke, and its congregation broken and dejected.

I was emotionally devastated. I just simply could not believe that this had happened to our church! I couldn’t believe it had happened to me! I had been working hard to help the church meet its goals, and had become one of the leaders in reaching out into the community. I had personally solicited many of the donations that had been made, and I was too humiliated to overcome this blow to my ego.

My humiliation eventually turned to rejection. Rejection of organized religion. I was too proud to go back to the church we used to attend. I would have had to admit that it was wrong to move my family’s membership to the new church led by a false prophet. I let my pride get in the way. I allowed Satan to drive a wedge between me and God. I left the church, terribly disheartened, and vowed to worship by myself in the future, rather than taking a chance on supporting another false leader.

I firmly believe it is this decision to leave the church that led to severe biblical discipline I later received. Scripture teaches that you can’t become a Christian and then just live your life any way you want. You have an obligation to fulfill your life’s ministry, and your heavenly father takes that obligation seriously. You should, too

Next chapter: Our Sons and Extended Families

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