Sunday, November 14, 2010

Comments from Lyle Mowery

Lyle Mowery or “The Mow” (rhyme with now) as generally known by the Ko-Op crowd:
     I (Lyle speaking) really enjoyed working at the Ko-Op and most of my collegiate friends and colleagues worked at the Ko-Op or hung out there. Most of the core group in the 1964-1969 time frame lived above the restaurant, as well as worked there. Mongoose (Gary Cook from Dupo) and I lived in the southeast penthouse room commonly referred to as “The Bahamas” due to the extreme heat which could only be regulated by opening and closing the windows. We also had transient roomies from time to time, including Ken 'Peanuts' Lowry (Strasburg) and Russ 'the Blob' White (Peoria).
     I could talk for days about the life and times of life in and around the Ko-Op, but I will limit this entry to one of my favorites. During one quarter (winter 1966-1967, I think) Johnson 'Johnse' and I opened the restaurant at 6:30 a.m. and made the pancake batter, prepared the salad, set up the steam table and cleaned up the crap the night shift left. When the quarter started, we only had one or two customers and generally cranked the juke box while we were working. I remember two songs we especially enjoyed were "Let’s Spend the Night Together” by the Rolling Stones and “Gimme some Lovin'" by the Spencer Davis Group.

     While we were working, we danced to the music and generally screwed around a lot. Our morning antics brought in many customers, most who came in for ”The Morning Show” rather than “2 over light with ham.” One of our regular customers was a female grad student who wore a green Hawaii sweatshirt and was very quiet. She read her text book and tried to ignore our antics. One day Johnson said “Mow, go over there and get that girl to enjoy herself." I walked out from behind the steam table over to her table and started dancing to the cranked juke box. I eventually danced up the booth and started a craze they now refer to as a 'table dance.' Hawaii, as we called her, began to get into the morning show and generally had a wonderful time for the rest of the quarter.
     Some of the Ko-Op group I remember: Richard Funk- all state basketball player from Decatur Eisenhower, Bob Warnsley, all state basketball player from the Stephan Decatur runnin’ Reds, the star tennis player - Jack Worthington (California), Tom 'Hair Ball' Baylis from Paris, and Al Yoder of Arthur. We all worked hard and generally were good friends. Much better than a fraternity, I think.
     At some point we should talk about the Ko-Op groupies, including Dianna Miller (Effingham) and Diana Roper (Decatur) - 'Dee and Di', Linda Christie also from Decatur and her own clique (Believe that Linda was from Rantoul?), Willy (blonde who dated Warnsley and started the multi-racial dating program), Vicky McDonald (Anna), Sonny 'the Fox' Greco (Springfield) who lived upstairs too, Sonny’s roommate - a quiet guy whose name escapes me (Duane Harms, now lives in Sarasota, FL), the 'Sarge' who tried to keep us under control but after a year with no supervision, and an overnite visit by his girlfriend - - he generally got blackmailed into keeping quiet. Brad Latvaitus (worked at Walt’s), Jerry Burtis from Hoopeston, Mary Ann Grooms (Sullivan), Julie Citch and her friend, Wendy Harder - (both from Chicago region). I may think of more later. Do you remember who used to go to Champaign with us to drink at Kam’s and other college bars? – Mongoose and Whitey have scars on their arms to prove it!"
     "It was great talking to you. Let me know when you are in the area and especially if you and your wife come in to visit Ames."
Your friend always,
(Plant Manager, Carriage House Foods, Inc., Ames, IA)

I remember making the trip to Champaign once or twice. First trip on a Saturday, I was the designated driver for return back to Charleytown. You were sleeping and pretty much snockered. Your car's fuel pump began to leak (the '62 blue Chevy), and we made it almost back to Charleston. Tank ran dry a couple of miles north of town on Rte 130. It was 3 or 4 a.m. I hitched a ride to the Ko-Op, borrowed my roommate's car, came back to pick you up and got you home. The next day I'm working the Sunday lunch crowd shift, when you came downstairs wanting to know where in the hell your car was? (8-) lj
Spencer Davis Group singing 'Gimme Some Lovin'

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sonny Maton: BKE

     Did you hear stories about the Black Knights when you were at EIU?
     I recently reviewed a book by an alumni who was a member of BKE in the Fifties (Later returned there to attend grad school in the Sixties; occasionally ate at the Ko-Op). My brief review for Library Thing follows:

The Black Knights Of The Embarrass by Sonny Maton

     This is a story that has regional interest for persons connected to Charleston, Illinois and Eastern Illinois University. Set in the post-Korean War era, this novel is mainly a biographical tale centered on the early history of a unique student veteran's organization, "The Black Knights of the Embarrass." Having attended and graduated from EIU in the late 60s and having lived another twenty years in the community, I'm familiar with the legendary stories about the BKE and the locations for the novel's events. I first heard tales of the Black Knights from Walt Warmoth (owner of Little Walt's campus hangout). I also had a college roommate who joined the BKE in 1967 and gathered some impressions of his experiences too.
     Sonny Maton was an early member of the Black Knights in the Fifties; therefore his novel should be accurate, however it seems lacking in the full disclosure in places. Identities are sometimes thinly disguised yet several people are identified in the photo section. Most evident is the 'chaste' demeanor portrayed for members of the group made up primarily of Korean War veterans. BKE was noted for their anti-establishment stance, their defiance of attempted controls by university administration, and infamous drinking and 'Cornfield Relays' parties held at the Airtight Bridge area. I recognize that participants are now senior citizens and grandparents today, but also they were real people - - not that different from veterans of other wars and non-traditional college students of other times. The book is a little too squeaky-clean for me in places. I mean the author is the person who got in the face of President Quincy Doudna. Doudna who threatened to eradicate the BKE, and who directed Dean Anfinson to seek to identify members and discipline them.
Black Knights' at Bay: University Wars on Mysterious Frat (May 17, 1958). The Miami News.
    Despite the weaknesses, Maton's book is a recommended read for EIU alumni 
(Photo of Sonny Maton below).

Related Information: The Airtight Bridge area (located east of Fairgrange community north of Charleston) came into the news later (Revised content below, Dec. 2011):

     On a Sunday morning, October 19, 1980, two men from rural Urbana driving by the Airtight Bridge spotted a gruesome scene, a dismembered corpse missing its head, hands and feet. The female torso was located about 50 feet downstream from the bridge. The discovery caused a stir in the local media. Police investigated for years, but were unable to determine the identity of the victim until 1992, when DNA testing produced a match to a missing person.
     A Hörspiele (Experimental radio documentary) titled Airtight Bridge was written and produced by Jonathon Kirk and Brent Wetters. The primary component is an interview conducted by Jonathon Kirk with two police officers who investigated the crime. (Program length: 20:58 minutes)

Article in the Dally Eastern News by Jeff Madsen (Jan. 26, 1989). Click on the image below for a larger view.

I'm guessing when the writer mentioned "a cake throw," the BKA member was talking about a keg throw into the river.