As published in the Mt. Carmel Daily Republican-Register - October 1998

I am a very, very lucky person! I grew up in a Magic Place at a Magic Time. I had 
the great good fortune to spend my childhood and teen years in Mt.Carmel during 
the 1940s and ‘50s. I really do love Mt.Carmel, I always have. Pastor Randy 
Mullinax (a Georgia native) remarked at the last Chamber Banquet that he was 
happy now to be living in Mt.Carmel, the best town in Southern Illinois. Of course 
Randy was absolutely right. Mt.Carmel is clearly the best, it is Magic. 

I need to point out that when I say “Mt.Carmel”, I really mean the entire area. To 
me Lancaster and Bellmont and Allendale and Keensburg are all part of “my” 
Mt.Carmel, as are Cowling, Friendsville, Lick Prairie, Cabbage Corner and all 
points in between. 

I began to realize that Mt.Carmel was a Magic Place when, as a child, the 
“grown-ups” said that “Shorty” Dillard was the shortest soldier in WWI and that 
Frank Carrel was the tallest one in WWII. Imagine that! Mt.Carmel produced 
Generals and Admirals and, more importantly, genuine heroes who served in all 
branches of the armed forces every time the nation called so that they could help 
preserve that fragile thing we call “Freedom”. 

It WAS a Magic Time! We had just whipped the Germans and the Japs and we 
stopped the Commies cold at the 38th Parallel. One of our boys, “Hoot” Gibson, 
became a Jet Fighter Ace in Korea when he sent five Commie pilots off to meet 
their maker in classic aerial dogfights. 

In Desert Storm my Mt.Carmel sent 57 of its finest souls to answer America’s latest 
call. Such a huge show of Patriotism from our tiny county flushed out my eyes and 
“lumped-up” my throat when I heard the actual number. I did not know it as a child, 
but I have since learned that Col. T.S. Bowers from Mt.Carmel, adjutant to Gen. 
Ulysses S. Grant, was in the very room in Appomattox Court House, Virginia when 
Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Gen. Grant. Think about that! A 
Mt.Carmel boy was one of only a dozen or so people on the entire planet who 
literally was a witness to the end of our great Civil War!! 

In another piece of pure Magic, Capt. Bellenden Hutcheson, M.D. was a WWI 
recipient of Great Britain’s highest honor - The Victoria Cross. Only a tiny handful 
of non-British subjects have ever been so honored, and a Mt.Carmel boy is in that 
select circle. So you see, the Magic is not new. 

Mt.Carmel was truly a Magic place for a kid to grow up in. (Please do not blame 
Anna Lee Jones for that sentence ending in a preposition. God Bless her! - she 
strove mightily to show me the light!) We had Cowlings, a world-class furniture 
store, a wonderland called Stein’s Hardware, and a young boy could actually stand 
in front of Wolf’s and see Coke bottles march up in perfect, seemingly endless 
ranks to be filled & capped! Try that in any other town in the region. We even had a 
REAL football stadium, not just some bleachers thrown up on a flat place as other 
towns did. We all took pride in the magnificent old homes on Cherry and Mulberry 
streets. Without question Mt.Carmel had the best swimming pool anyone had ever 
seen, and probably the best municipal golf course in the region as well. 

I honestly felt sorry for relatives, friends and acquaintances who were not lucky 
enough to live in Mt.Carmel. My greatest childhood radio hero, The Lone Ranger, 
was in reality Mt.Carmel-born Brace Beemer! He was bigger than Tom Mix, bigger 
than Jack Armstrong, bigger than Captain Midnight, bigger even than Superman 
himself. Yep, I did live in a Magic Place. Fifty years later I was delighted to learn 
that Brace Beemer was my cousin, but that’s another story… 

It WAS a magic time with local sports heroes galore! My very earliest heroes were 
Ed Fearheiley, Kimball Watson, John Beck, Bill Brines, Charley Holcomb and 
many, many others. John “Doc” Reburn was quoted a year or so ago as saying that 
Archie Dees was the greatest athlete Mt.Carmel ever produced, an opinion that few 
would object to. (There I go again, another sentence ending in a preposition) Doc 
then opined that Bud Brown was the greatest all-around athlete in our storied past. I 
agree with Doc in both choices. I know that these very subjective “greatest 
all-around” judgments are often largely generational. So be it! Names like Ollie 
Shoaff or Gene Mundy, or Bill Cotner or Junior Stillwell might be advanced by 
folks who have been around a little longer than Doc or I have. Also, in the 42 years 
since I left MCHS, there may be other worthy candidates who are totally unknown 
to me, but I’m content to go along with Doc on this one. 

I saw Don Liddle pitch for the Meissner Indians before he became a World Series 
hero. He was teamed with his brother Ivan, his cousin Leon, and the Crums, and 
Pfeiffers and Raibleys and Hockgeigers. You think that wasn’t Magic? I saw Gib 
Mains and Archie Dees and the Brown Brothers work their Magic. I was lucky 
enough to have played with and watch (up close) probably the two greatest running 
backs ever to don the Maroon & Gold, Butch Knowles and Dick Steckler. 

It certainly was a Magic Place. We were not saddled with boring pedestrian names 
for our sports teams like Lions and Tigers and Bulldogs and Wildcats, NO! we 
were THE GOLDEN ACES!!! How fitting. After all, our girls WERE prettier and 
our guys WERE cooler than those other towns. It was Magic! Even our band and 
music programs were the best. We had Pappy Perkins and we had great singers 
who helped maintain the Magic. What other towns could hope to match the great 
bass voices of Chester and Leroy Parrott or the wizardry of Lawrence Baggerly on 
the drums? If you never heard Magdalene Beuligmann sing “Ave Maria” or Shannon 
Garrett do “Galway Bay” or “Tura Lura Lura”, then I feel sorry for you. I especially 
would grieve for anyone who has not heard Sharon Waddle Mobley sing anything at 
all. Such is the very stuff of Magic! 

Do you want another example of Big-Time Magic? In 1962 Liz & I bought the 
house at 1013 Market St. Our Realtor, Ed Couch, was embarrassed to disclose that 
the seller had no keys for the house. He hastily volunteered to engage a locksmith to 
install new locks and supply us with keys if I wanted them. I told him not to bother. 
I had grown up in a farm house with no keys and did not see the need for them 
then. We lived at 1013 Market St. for four years, and rented it for 10-12 years all 
without keys. Only when we sold the house to a family from Chicago were keys 
demanded. They had never lived in a Magic Place before and considered keys to be 
essential. 

A part of the Magic, a BIG part, was (and I hope still is) the plain, old-fashioned, 
down-home common sense exhibited by most Mt.Carmel folks. When the very first 
District 348 school buses rolled in 1948 they quite sensibly picked up and 
deposited children at St. Mary’s School. All citizens paid taxes so, of course, all 
children rode the buses. That was a simple, straightforward EASY CALL for 
Mt.Carmel people to make. Not so in Sangamon County (Springfield)! In 1972, 24 
years after Mt.Carmel folks settled the issue, the Springfield area schools fought an 
exercise in pure sophistry and hogwash as phony constitutional issues blocked 
parochial school children from riding the buses. It was actually argued that if 
Lutheran or Catholic children rode the buses it would be an establishment of a state 
religion. How Silly! I don’t know how it ended up as we moved from Springfield in 
1972. But I do know that I never felt more certain, or “smugger” if you will, about 
the innate superiority of a Magic Place called Mt.Carmel than at that very moment. 

My family and I were separated from the Magic for 24 years from 1966 to 1990. 
You may be assured that we are back home to stay. My next exit will be feet first. I 
have been accused of being a shameless “Booster” for Mt.Carmel, a real “Homer”. 
So be it. Dizzy Dean once said, “If you’re telling the truth, it ain’t braggin!” I ain’t 
braggin about my hometown…Mt.Carmel is Magic! 


John Stelzer  

GROWING UP IN A "MAGIC PLACE AT A MAGIC TIME"
Our thanks to  John Stelzer the following . . . .