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150 7. Good Times in Small Places Rural area politics differs little from urban politics in its manifestations . In applications it usually follows similar patterns. Secret or quietmeetingplaces.Publicbackslappinganddemonstrationsofaffection or affectation. They are ever so, whether in the 1950s or 2010s, Chicago or Vienna. WhenLittleEgyptpoliticalplottingrequiredasafe-roomlocation,many traveledtojusteastoftheMississippiRiverandCapeGirardeau,Missouri.1 TheywenttothePurpleCrackle,anightclubbysomestandards,aroadhouse by others, which opened in 1939. Owner Clyde (Bud) Pearce Jr. explained theorigin:“Theclubdidn’thaveaveryextravagantbeginning.Itopenedwith a bottle in a box and a crap game. And the name—Purple Crackle—was a mistake. My father had named the club the Purple Grackle, after the bird, butIguessthecrackofthediceledeveryonetocallitCrackle,andthename stuck.” It drew first-class entertainment: Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, all played at the Crackle, according to written accounts. In the friendly and protected confines Illinoisans knew secrets were keptwhileplansweremadeforpublicpolicyeffortsinSpringfield,Illinois. The food was special, leaning toward big, thick steaks. In small buildings outback,high-stakespokerwasfavored.Femalecompanionshipmayhave been available upon request. The testimonial dinner ranked high as an excuse to honor politicians whobroughtameasureoffameandrecognition,alongwithjobs,forlocal Good Times in Small Places 151 consumption.Usually,theprogramignoredanysetbacksorfailuresalong the way, except in a humorous vein. The outpouring of accolades carried the night. Such was the celebration on June 8, 1946, when John H. Stelle “returned” to McLeansboro after successfully drafting and selling theGI Bill of Rights and serving a year as national commander of the American Legion, ending in late 1945. As one local historian wrote, the event was “a gigantic homecoming for Hamilton County’s gigantic man: John Stelle Day.”2 Top state officials showed up—no one dared to miss it because everyone attending was watching everyone else. In this case the delegation was headed by Governor Dwight Green, Governor Ralph Gates of Indiana, Secretary of State EdwardJ. Barrett,IllinoisLegionDepartmentcommanderOmerJ. Macklin,andanassortmentoflocalandregionalfriendsandwell-wishers. Ahugeparadeprecededthefestivitiesfeaturingeightbandsanddrum and bugle corps and Illinois State Police marching as a group, leading everyonetothefairgrounds.Threeradiostationscoveredtheevent.After receivingpraiseheapedbyothers,Stellesteppedforwardtoacknowledge the warmth and express his appreciation, with emphasis on patriotism and how everyone must guard and protect the nation.3 The party continued on into the evening with entertainment and a spectacular fireworks display. Six years earlier Stelle’s name had generated widespread animus as he swept through ninety-nine days as governor, but he had recovered nicely, thanks to the American Legion and loyal friends. NotfarfromMcLeansboro,inViennafifteenyearslater,onMarch24, 1961, a crowd estimated at more than a thousand packed the high school gymnasium to honor hometown and Johnson County hero Paul Taylor Powell.4 Less than three months earlier he had been elected Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives for the third and last time. Powell wasatthepeakofprowessandpowerinstategovernment.Inrecognition of his statewide influence, the big-name guest list included Lieutenant Governor Samuel Shapiro, Senator Everett Peters of St. Joseph, House minority whip Clyde Choate, Southern Illinois University (SIU) president Delyte Morris, state representative C. L. McCormick, and a host of state legislators, school officials, and state officeholders. Members of regional fair boards filled many seats to watch a presentation fashioned after the television program This Is Your Life. Longtime friend James M. (Stud)Walkerwasmasterofceremonies.HeandChoatehadplannedthe 152 Good Times in Small Places affair. Preceding Powell’s response, performers entertained guests with instrumental music, vocal solos, string bands, and tap dancing. After accepting the “keys to the city,” Powell spoke of his boyhood days, friends, revered mother, father, wife, and brother to the assembled crowd.Hecalledthecelebration“thegreatesthonorthathasevercometo me.”5 Powellexpressedregretsthathiswife,Daisy,wasunabletosharethe honors with him, saying that she was ill in a Chicago hospital. Virtually everyone in the audience had to hold back a snicker. Thereweremanysucheventstopayrespectsforpoliticalachievements andexpressionsofgovernmentexpendituresforlocalcauses.Localnewspapers needed no excuses to praise citizens for various achievements. An example of a newspaper memorial occurred on June 15, 1995, in a special sectionoftheAnnaGazette-Democratnewspaper.6 Incommemorationof theendofWorldWarIIfiftyyearsearlier,muchofthesectionwasdevoted to local and national military hero Clyde Lee Choate. Also appearing was a reprint of an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer of April 26, 1986, titled “Members of Renowned World War II 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion Reunite.” Choate was featured in the article stating, “It’s amazing. Most of these fellows I haven’t seen since the war, but I’m having no trouble recognizing faces and remembering faces.”7 The section carried an account of Choate’s combat actions on October 26, 1944, which were acknowledged with the Medal of Honor. Reflecting on his service in the state House, another article stated, “War and Politics: Anna’s Clyde Choate earned a Medal of Honor and then became one of the state’s top political leaders.” Another article reprinted from the June 8, 1975...


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