Saturday, July 19, 2014

2014-19 Benton Southern Illinois


Benton Illinois
Lazy Summer Days on the water

Campground:  South Marcum COE, Benton Illinois.  $8.00 senior rate.  Elect 50 amp.  I goofed, I thought the site at least had water and electric but only had elect.  Should have signed up for a full-hookup site. The volunteer worker at the campground office was of no help at all in attempting to get me a different site.

Distance Traveled: 149 miles

It’s easy to miss some good sites when traveling further distances.  Like Paducah and Metropolis.  Paducah is, from what I’ve read, quite the artist community and a world class quilting center with a museum and shops that teach and sell what ever quilters need.  They also have wonderful murals along the flood walls that protect the town which my good friend LaVon told me about.  And imagine, I missed visiting the hometown of Superman!.  They have a huge superman statue of course.  They’re both on the border of Kentucky and Illinois.  I was also hoping to visit with my niece Kim Boyle and her family, but having not heard back from them I'm guessing they are too busy for a visit from me and so I’ll head on to Springfield and the Land of Lincoln next week.  See you next time around the bend.

seeing a water tower in the distance always
tells you there's a town coming up.

So there you are, I’ve missed a few good sites all because I’ve traveled an extra  50 or 100 miles on down the road.  Life if rough on the road sometimes, but I guess I’ll survive.  I’m still not completely sure which direction I’m heading to in the next couple of weeks either, as I’ve already hit my major summer destinations which were, Ashville, Nashville, and Hurricane Mills.  Do I head further north and visit my sister Ann in the U.P. (Michigan)?  Do I travel to New York state where I have a dear friend who’d like to see me?  Or do I head into Canada where I have a group of friends on the Bruce Peninsula.  Or maybe begin my trek out west.

Benton Illinois, town square

So here I am in Benton Ill.  With very little to do.  As there aren’t any really great things to see and do in the area.  Which is kind of nice for a change in that I’ll be able to just sit back and relax.  I might take a day or two to just drive the back roads and take a few shots of old barns and such in the area.  Other than that, I’m enjoying the sudden cool down across the country.  I actually wore long pants and put on a short sleeved shirt over my usual T-shirt.

So that was yesterday.  Today, I decided to check out the Rend Lake Dam visitor center and go into the small town of Benton and check out a small museum.  The Rend Lake visitor center is a brand new big visitor center with a nice educational center describing the dam and the local geology and stuff.  Pretty cool especially for kids.  So onto Benton which is a small town located in southern most part of Illinois.  I drove up to the County Jail Historical Museum built in 1902 not expecting all that much, but I had time and why not check it out.  A sign at the entrance also indicated it was a visitor center which I found out it no longer was.  The gal, with dark hair and eye shadow that circled her eyes like a raccoon’s mentioned they had a video telling about the history of the jail and it’s exhibits, so I started there.

The County Historical Jail Museum

I quickly learned about the famous prisoner that resided in the jail.  The infamous Charlie Birger who was a notorious bootlegger during the country’s prohibition years.  A feud with the KKK ended with Birger and the Shelton gang killing many in the clan.  He was later arrested and hanged in the back of the jail in 1928.  The last hanging in Illinois.  The jail itself is an interesting building.  From the front it is a very nice two story house in which the sheriff and his wife lived. With the back half being a two story jail.  The cells had no privacy and faced a second row of cells.  The wife of the sheriff was expected to cook the meals for the prisoners and if the jail was fairly full, she could make more money preparing meals than the sheriff made being a sheriff.

an interesting video tell about the Jail

The front house where the Sheriff lived 

window where food would be passed to the prison cells

no privacy here

Charlie Birger's cell until he was hanged

The second most interesting exhibit in the museum is the display from the radio station WFRX 1300.  The original d.j. equipment, a wooden table, two chairs and a microphone in the center of the table were used when the Beatle, George Harrison came to town in Sept 1963.  It was his first visit to the U.S. and he was visiting his sister, Louise Harrison Caldwell who had married a Scottish mining engineer and was living in Benton Ill.  George Harrison went to WFRX radio station, was interviewed by his sister on air.  During that interview they played the newly recorded Beatles song, “From me to You” which was a smash hit in England.  Thought to be the first time a Beatles song was played in America.  Though a radio station in Chicago disputes that claim.  Less than a year later the Beatles would be on the Ed Sullivan show and Beatle mania was in full swing.  George Harrison lived in his sisters house for two weeks, vacationing in the area, jamming with a local band at the VFW, visiting places like Garden of the God’s and even camping while here.

The seat where George Harrison sat for the radio interview

George Harrison

How is that for a pretty cool connection.  Me visiting this little town in southern Illinois, camping, just like one of those Beatles did back in 1963.  Wow, it’s like George and I are connected somehow.

Anyone interested in Antique Malls should head to Benton Ill.  They have at least 4 large Antique Malls right on the square.  And a stop at the Buzz Café will put a smile on your face after having a great cup of coffee.  I had a perfectly prepared Caesar Salmon Salad as well.

Antique mall items for sale
entering Benton town square

hand made cloth doll

pretty good condition 

that was some pretty strong fabric

Looking out from the Buzz Cafe

Another week in the heartland of America.  The corn is as tall as a adult, the oil fields one armed pumps are pumping oil and I’m only about 4 miles from a Walmart and downtown Benton.  The crickets, frogs and night critters all sing me to sleep at night.  And the temperatures have been a comfortable 80 degrees during the day and has dipped down to a cool 59 degrees at night thanks to a Polar Vortex they tell me.  What ever it is, I sure have enjoyed this week of perfect weather.

corn is tall and ready to harvest

Next stop Springfield Illinois

additional photos on PICASA

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