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Posts Tagged ‘community’

Top of the Hill Bait Shop

When the Tri-State Tornado devastated Murphysboro in 1925, a dairy farm atop of a hill west of town survived and opened its doors to its neighbors and helped people get back on their feet.

Terry Graeff’s father owned the farm. He recalls more than 100 people crowded into the farmhouse he’s restored today, its generator providing light through some dark times.

“They were cooking around the clock, cleaning, helping those that were hurt,” Graeff said. “Everybody helped everybody around here back then, still do.”

The dairy days are gone but not Graeff’s hospitality as he guides customers through the bait and tackle shop he operates with his wife Janet in a garage aside his family’s farmhouse.

“I just work here, the shop is her’s,” Graeff said. “She spent two years wearing her soles out looking for a job when my father suggested she open a bait shop. That was 20 years ago.”

The Graeff’s residence is serendipitously located near the Indian Creek tributary, which the Division of Fisheries dammed and built Lake Murphysboro from in 1950. The watershed today hosts a 1,022 acre state park with groves of majestic oak and hickory trees and a 145-acre lake stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, channel catfish and crappie.

“It takes the coldest of cold days to keep people off the lake,” Graeff said.

Located near the bend in the road heading to the lake a mile ahead, Janet opened “Top of the Hill Bait Shop” inside a restructured, two-car garage, in 1990. The bait shop is the areas’ largest supplier of live bait: crickets, minnows, wax worms, meal worms, and nightcrawlers have their place at the top of the menu.

“The wax worm is the larva of a moth that lays its eggs in beehives and the larvae eat the honey and wax. They can destroy an entire bee colony,” Janet Graeff said as she sifted through several dozen wax worms, dispensing them into containers like a pharmacist. “If you told me 20 years ago I’d learn this much about all that crawls, slinks and swims, I’d said, ‘Ewwwww.’”

The Graeff’s have become a home-grown staple of Murphysboro’s fishing market, treating customers with a hospitality that shares its roots with the region’s history.

Terry Graeff is a life-long Murphysboro resident and said after four years in the service there was no place that was more home, then home. He and his wife met in 1964 and settled later settled in Murphysboro after buying the family farmhouse.

“This has been my playground—my stomping ground—since 1949,” he said. Graeff fishes both nearby lakes; Murphysboro and Kinkaid, a 2,750-acre lake with sandstone bluffs and largely surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest. “There is at least 5,000 little one-to-two acre ponds around here as well, but we don’t fish them,” he said.

The bait shop has four large tubs equaling 450 gallons of water to house their minnows. The pumps gurgle in the background as crickets chirp closer to the counter. When they first opened their two daughters were younger and living at home and helped with the bait shop, sifting through their own share of wax worms.

“They were around the ages seven and twelve at the time, of course at those ages they weren’t afraid of anything in here; creepy, crawly, it didn’t matter,” Janet said. Now she said it is just her, Terry, and Anamchara, her six-year-old Great Dane. “She’s been coming into the bait shop six days a week for the last four years. All the regular customers know when they open the door, they’re going to be greeted by this 125-pound dog.”

Anamchara, whose name is Irish for “Soul Friend,” is Janet’s companion and rarely far from her side, while their second dog Harley can be found near Terry greeting every visitor, whether stopping in or pausing by, with a bark.

The shop opens at 6:30 each morning except wednesday when they remain closed for the day.

Slow Pitch Softball

“Slow pitch softball is more about the people and the players and the atmosphere before and after the game than it is about the competition itself,” states Llyod Nelson head of the Murphysboro men’s softball league.

Men’s softball leagues are known for an easy going atmosphere and are generally used as a social gathering rather than an ultra competitive sport. The teams play at Riverside Park’s Chep Kessel Field. Construction of the diamond, which was part a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, began in 1938 and has approximate seating for 1,500 spectators. The field has played host to tryouts for two Major League Baseball teams, the New York Yankees (1948) and multiple times for the St. Louis Cardinals. This years league championships went to a local team known as the Side Bar.

4-H Window Display

Friday Oct 2, 2009 - Emma Bigham was titled the giggle box of the 4-H group. The students in Rosie Wece's team were setting up a window display at the Murphysboro Building Supply Store for National 4-H week.  (photo by Rachel Snow)

The Somerset Clovers have been an award winning 4-H group for their window displays for the last several years.

Jasmine Estes, a member of the group, said they did it again this year. “We won 1st on our window display again this year. I think that makes for the fourth year in a row,” Estes said. Rosie Wece, a leader for the Somerset clovers, said the group works hard to come up with a creative idea each year that goes with the theme. “It’s part of national 4-H week,” Wece said. She said the past few years they put their window display in The Building Services Supply store and they have lots of room to make it 3-D (like the set of a play). Wece said, “Hopefully, the window will catch the public’s eye, and they will take time to look at it!”

Food Pantry


Every weekday morning at 9:00, you will find Jack Cunneen, director of the Murphysboro Food Pantry unlocking the door at the 14th St. location where volunteers provide food for those in need. Cunneen, the pantry’s only paid employee, has been involved for over 10 years. He says the best part of his job is being able to help people who really need it.

The pantry serves people from across Jackson County with food to support families. “It helps out a lot in hard times when you get low on food,” Murphysboro resident Elwood Cox said.

The food pantry began as an organization tied to the Murphysboro Ministerial Alliance. But in 1984, the food pantry became a separate entity, said Jane Williams, volunteer and member of the pantry’s board of directors. However, the alliance continues to provide donations to the pantry.

Williams got involved about five years ago at the suggestion of a friend from her church. “I loved it so much,” she said. “I loved the people we met and it felt like we were doing something worthwhile.”

Clients of the food pantry must meet Department of Agriculture income guidelines before they use the food pantry, and the recent downturn in the economy has brought more and more people in need of help. In 2008, 17 million households experienced food insecurity, or were unable to adequately feed their family, up from 13 million households in 2007, according to a report by the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, released in November 2009.

“We are seeing it seep into people I never thought it would,” Williams said. “It’s amazing how many new people we sign up.” Once a person registers, they are handed a box of basic food supplies including frozen meat and canned goods. Then, they are able to browse for other items to fill out their needs.

Recently, the food pantry moved to its new location on 14th Street, in the former Bill and Gene’s grocery store building. The added space has been a huge improvement and has made life easier for all involved. “It’s ten times better,” Cunneen said.

Before moving from a much smaller facility on 7th Street, clients would have to take a number and sometimes wait a half hour or more outside in their cars because there was not enough space inside. Now, people can sit and wait in the air-conditioned building. I like it,” said Ken Whittaker of Murphysboro. “The other location was so hard to find. It’s the perfect place to be.”

Williams said the new building allows the pantry to plan ahead because they now have room to store food in freezers and coolers, so they don’t lose food to heat and moisture. Not only does the new location have better food storage, but it is also in a more prominent location and has a much more relaxed atmosphere. “It’s such a psychologically better place,” Williams said. “You can have a personal experience with [the clients]. They feel more like a person than a number.”

Along with the increased space, the pantry now posts help wanted ads from local newspapers and distributers, and coupons available to use at local stores, Williams said. It has also brought in a nutritionist to teach clients how to cook the food they receive and help them to eat a healthier diet. “We want to show them how to make it fun,” Williams said. “That’s our goal.”

Need for the food pantry increases in the summer months because children are home from school, where they normally have lunch, so the family has to provide more meals, she said. Unfortunately, the pantry also receives the fewest donations during the summers when demand is greatest.

Donations come from local stores, churches and individuals. These sources of donations help fill the supplemental items that go in client’s boxes, Williams said. Cunneen visits both Kroger and Wal-Mart to pick up boxes full of food that the stores have left over. People donate canned goods, give money and even volunteer; something Betty O’Guinn finds rewarding. “The Lord was nudging me to come and help,” she said. “I enjoy it. It gets me out of the house.”

Looking to the future, Williams is optimistic the pantry will continue to grow. She hopes there will be more interest and more people willing to get involved. “We have ideas, dreams, goals,” she said. “What we lack is people with recognizable names. I went to the Apple Fest planning meeting with city leaders and only three of the 15 people at the meeting knew of the food pantry and none of them knew where it was located.”

For now, however, the pantry continues to feed those in need, always aware of the help it provides. “You almost cry when they leave,” O’Guinn said. “With a couple I think I did.”

Cub Scouts Car Wash


Cub scout pack 112 out of Murphysboro held a car wash Saturday with the proceeds benefitting the Murphysboro Food Pantry.

The scout troop, led by scout Master Scott Satterlee, is chartered by the Murphysboro United Methodist Church and will be celebrating the 50th year of its charter in 2010. Pack 112 does a yearly carwash to benefit a local charitable business, with all proceeds going to directly to the business they are fundraising for. This years car wash was located at the Murphysboro Food Pantry. This years car wash was scheduled to be a two-hour long event from 9-11 a.m., but lasted nearly an hour longer as cars were still lining up to get washed and sprayed down by pack 112. When asked of the approximate average donation Mr. Satterlee said between $5 and $10 and he approximated a total donation of a little over $200. Fifteen members of Pack 112 were there for the event, and they also had help from two scouts from Boy Scout Troop 4.

Benefit at Elks Club

How the Elks Raise Money.

In Murphysboro, the Elks Club knows how to raise money. On a Saturday night, the members got a band, beer and food donated by local vendors to help throw a party to celebrate the life of Florance Alstat, the mother of Elk’s member Dale Alstat. All the money raised went to the Illinois Elks Children’s Care Corporation. The Elk’s Club in Murphysboro is number one or two in donations for the state of Illinois.

17th Street Bar & Grill

Known throughout the BBQ world simply as “The Legend,” Mike Mills and his Apple City Barbecue Team is a three-time World Grand Champion of the Memphis in May Barbecue Competition.

“I barbecued all my life. I’ve learned from a lot of people and I’ve helped a lot of people,” Mills said. Well known for his willingness to share his knowledge of barbecue, Mills has helped many people get into the barbecue business. He also co-authored the book, Peace Love and Barbecue, along with his daughter Amy, which shares stories and recipes of bbq pitmasters from around the country.

Marge’s Bar

The B & W Lounge at 12 N. 13th Street is more affectionately known as Marge’s bar by the regulars who have patroned it since 1975.

The bar is owned and operated by Margaret Hand, 83, who has lived in Murphysboro since 1942. Hand said that while her husband is who originally bought the bar, she’s always been the boss. Domestic beers are $1.75, but after that, expect “just simple drinks. Nothin’ fancy.”

These days the bar and its regulars serve as an extended home and family for Hand. She said since her husband, parents and siblings have all passed away, she thinks of the people who have been coming in since they were old enough to drink as her kids.

It’s clear the sentiment has been returned: For most of them, her nickname is “Ma.”

Mileur’s Orchards

Mileur’s Orhard has been a family owned farm since the 1960′s.

Howard and Lisa Mileur have been owners of Mileur’s Orchard since 1996. This orchard was planted by Howard’s parents in 1961 and has been in the family ever since. Mileur’s Orchard is located several miles just west of Murphysboro on Highway 149.

Mileur’s Orchard grows peaches, apples, nectarines, white peaches, white nectarines, apricots, plums, and pears. The orchard is known for quality. “We want people to come back so we try to keep them happy and give them the best fruit we can,” Lisa said.

Thrift Store

Gary and Cherie Green opened the Supported People In Need (S.P.I.N.) thrift store three years ago at 1501 Shoemaker Drive.

The couple is taking profits from the sales of second hand items and investing the money back into the building, a dilapidated former nursing home. They hope to open what would be Murphysboro only homeless shelter in the near future. “God opened doors so we could do this,” Cherie said. “We talked about it and looked in the community and then boom … the door opened and we got this place.”

Gary, who works full-time for the Murphysboro School District in the maintenance department, spends much of his free time volunteering at the thrift store. “There’s no glory or anything in this, or glamorous. It’s work and some of the time it gets to be hard work,” Gary said.

Brad’s Mail Route

When Murphysboro residents go out to their mailbox, chances are Willard “Brad” Bradley Jr. has already stopped by to deliver its daily contents.

Bradley said he is one of five regular letter carriers that cover the town while walking an average of 10 miles every day. Through his 20 years on the job, Bradley said he has seen families grow up and then have the children come back to start a family of their own. On his route Bradley said he has an opportunity to help people around town, whether that be helping an elderly person who has fallen, giving directions, or even stopping a burglary.