CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
Revised 17 July 2020 by the author Lawrence Eugene Vaughn Jr
DANVILLE TO INDIANAPOLIS
Four Generations of Vaughns: Leona Marie Tate Vaughn, Lawrence Eugene (Larry) Vaughn, Jr., Jessie Beulah Phillips Vaughn, Marjorie Gwendolyn White Vaughn, Lawrence Eugene Vaughn. Front row, Steven Lance Vaughn and Lawrence Eugene Vaughn III (Link)
TABLE OF CONTENTS (Some Topics Under Development)
- City Life
- The Move to Danville
- The Oak Street Apartment
- The Boston Road Trip
- Radio Interviews and Shows
- Waiting for the Flyer
- The C&EI Depot
- Hauling Freight
- Danville Perspective” for The Chicago-Danville Flyer
- Radio Commercial Production
- 613 Plum
- Kickapoo State Park
- Flight Training
- Berkhalter Ambulance Service
- Terry Osborne
- Civil Defense Shelter Management
- 924 Sunset Ridge Drive
- Baptist Temple
During Christmas Break 1964, Max Shaffer offered me a news director position at WDAN, Danville, Illinois, located south of Chicago. I was excited to get closer to “the news” in the big city of Chicago, and moved, with my young wife to Danville. We had very few personal possessions, and carried all of our household goods in a single 4 X 8 foot rental trailer towed behind our white, standard floor shift, 1962 Ford Falcon Sports Futura with red leather interior and bucket seats.
I liked the idea of living in Danville. It was a “city” compared to Hannibal, where I was born and raised, and Boonville, another small town, where I first lived after being married. It meant a higher wage, and a larger community with a much larger social and entertainment base. The city was more than twice the size of Hannibal, which was 20,000 and declining with the loss of factories. Danville was over 50,000 and growing.
Danville, I later discovered, had one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation, and was a popular “stopping off” spot for gangsters going back and forth from Chicago to Indianapolis and Cincinnati. I worked in news gathering, and was fascinated by the local “police blotter,” the records of arrests and reports at the local police station and sheriff’s office.
The police department armory held a Thompson machine gun allegedly discarded by John Dillinger on one of his rants through town. I got to see “the” .45 machine gun once, but, there wasn’t any kind of provenance displayed or given.
Meanwhile, in Danville local news, there were mysterious murders, robberies, disappearances and other violent crimes committed by unknown never-seen persons, prostitution was organized and fairly openly practiced, and gambling casinos were found even in fraternal and military veteran organizations that operated “open bars” for the general public. It was a lot for a small town boy to grasp!
The Move to Danville
When we moved to Danville, in 1965, Lea and I had been married only a few months, and it was a very big step for her to move 300 miles away from her family. It was exciting for me, and just felt like the next “right thing” to do to move up the ladder to a successful radio career.
Before the big move, I had talked by phone to the “morning man,” the most senior announcer at the radio station, and asked him to locate an apartment close to the radio station so Lea and I could get quickly settled. He did so, and we hitched up the trailer and headed out in winter snow to lands unknown with about $120 cash to our names.
During the drive, somewhere west of Decatur, Illinois on Route 36, late at night, we emerged from under an overpass at highway speed, and were caught by a sudden gust of cross wind that caught the trailer and pushed it sideways, dragging the car behind it. I had no control whatsoever, and was drug tail first into the deeply piled snow banks in the median between the east and west bound lanes. We were there hardly any time at all before a good samaritan arrived on the scene with a four wheel drive truck and tow strap, who easily towed us back up on the highway.
We continued on to Danville in blowing, drifting, snow, now a little more cautiously when entering and exiting overpasses on the snow covered highway. We arrived in Danville an hour or two after midnight, and not knowing where anything was located, found ourselves at an International House of Pancakes on North Vermilion Street, where we got something to eat.
We asked our waitress for approximate directions to Oak Street, where the apartment was located, and after a refreshing break there, we followed her directions through blowing snow to the apartment. It was located on the upper floor of a large house that had been divided into several very small units. . . essentially large bedrooms turned into efficiency apartments.
We parked the car and trailer on the street in front of the house, and with a little difficulty removing snow and ice from the door hinges of the trailer, retrieved suitcases, some bedding, and headed inside to wake the owner, who let us into the apartment.
The Oak Street Apartment
Our living quarters turned out to be essentially a two-room accommodation. The upstairs of the building had been converted from four large bedrooms into four efficiency apartments. The front door of our apartment opened from the hall into the living room, which had a cooking area, not even really a kitchen, with an apartment stove and refrigerator, a short countertop, and a kitchen sink alongside. All this was crammed along the outside wall and a partial wall that separated the kitchen area from the long, narrow, living room.
We had very little furniture. We had our bed & dresser, a small two seat sofa, a side table with shelf, a small television with stand, an Encyclopedia Britannica in a wooden bookcase, and a 42″ round, dark wood, cocktail table. We sat on the floor to use the cocktail table for dining.
The bedroom was down two steps, with a bathroom you practically had to back into and sit to shut the door. There was so little space alongside our double bed, it was easiest to get in and out by going over the footboard, which almost reached the bathroom door and the two or three steps up to the living room.
I was very happy. My lovely bride was a wonderful homemaker and had the apartment looking very nice in no time. Meanwhile, I was starting a new job, learning the ropes at the new radio station, and learning about the Danville area, particularly local pronunciations. For example, the Embarrass river was pronounced Em-Braw. In Boonville, Cooper county was pronounced Kupper with a short U. Dekalb was pronounced De-Kab.
The radio station I worked for, WDAN, was at that time owned by Gannett Corporation, which also owned the Danville Commercial News daily newspaper. WDAN was housed on the second floor of the Commercial News building at 17 North Street. Across the alley to the east was Montgomery Ward, and diagonally across North street was Walgreens with its popular lunch counter.
Kickapoo State Park was on the edge of town, and was a delightful park with large lakes, tall bluffs, and towering trees throughout. We spent many happy days there over the years, and frequently took visiting family members to the park for picnics. The tree shaded camping areas offered picnic tables, outdoor grills, lake access, and lots of fishing spots. I built a canvas canoe in our living room, and enjoyed many floating trips through the many scenic spots on the lake, and fishing favorite spots on the lake.
As news director at the radio station, I made friends with a newspaper reporter for the Commercial News who was about my age, and had lengthy discussions about what was going on in the news locally. He wanted to be an investigative reporter, but was currently stuck on the Byline desk, writing about daily community activities. I shared with him everything I learned from the police blotter and from talking to policemen at the station. He was soon promoted to the crime beat, and we helped each other by sharing leads.
Lea and I had an interesting neighbor who lived in the apartment across the hall. He was a handsome, ruggedly built man, who was in the process of converting a new F-600 5-ton Ford truck he had just purchased to haul highway freight in interstate commerce. He was having the frame shortened, dual axles and a fifth wheel added, along with all the required accessories for Interstate Commerce hauling.
He had a large steel compartment built out of ¼” steel, attached to the frame just behind the conventional cab. It stretched the full width of the truck, was about 12” front to back, and reached from the frame to the the bottom of the rear window of the cab. It had a large padlocked door on each side of the truck. Jim said it held highway equipment, I suppose tire chains and blocks, but I never saw the compartment open.
He also drove a late model Corvette Stingray, was a snappy dresser, and always had a large wad of cash in his pocket. He made frequent road trips to pick up loads in Chicago, and when he was home, he parked his truck on the side street, where it was always in view from his living room window. Being a small town boy and knowing nothing about how the trucking industry worked, I considered his lifestyle to be somewhat suspicious.
The Boston Road Trip
I got to make one road trip with Jim to Boston, Massachusetts, where he delivered Stanray fiberglass boats from the plant in Danville to a Sears store in old downtown Boston. In those days the boats were not wrapped when being transported, and crosswinds would catch the boats’ cavities and push hard against the trailer, making it really difficult to stay within the lane. I didn’t have, what back then was called a “Chauffeur’s License,” so couldn’t drive the truck. I didn’t regret that much at all after watching him struggle with crosswinds.
Another of his big challenges was navigating the narrow streets of Boston to reach the Sears store where he dropped off the trailer. Making turns on the old, narrow, streets was a challenge that occasionally required starting a turn, backing up a bit, and going forward again to clear parked cars and traffic signals. But, after getting a signature verifying receipt of the boats we delivered, we bobtailed (drove without a trailer), to a large warehouse nearby, where he picked up a box trailer with a load bound for Chicago.
After checking the seal on the rear door of the trailer to make sure it was intact, Jim backed the truck under the trailer, and I got to see how the fifth wheel latched to the trailer, and how he cranked up the leveling jacks on which it had stood, and hooked up the hoses. Then we were off to Chicago to drop the trailer, and then bobtailed the 90 minutes or so back home to Danville.
Over the Road
It was an interesting trip, and I got to see a little bit of the inner workings of the freight trucking industry. My grandfather White, and his son, Wallace (Jack), both had been over-the-road drivers, but I never previously gotten to actually experience what that was like.
On the trip to Boston, we spent the night in a noisy truckers motel, used the truckers’ bathroom and shower facilities at truck stops, and had meals with other truckers who shared stories about their experiences on the roads of North America. It was a lifestyle that didn’t appeal to me, but I was glad to have had an inside view.
After a little over a year of driving his Ford truck, he traded for an International Harvester cabover tractor with a sleeper. He said that he needed a bigger truck to haul heavier loads, and this truck had a bed included, so he wouldn’t have to stay in motels any longer. The “cabover” designation was because the driver’s cab sat over the engine, rather than behind the engine, as in a conventional style truck.
The truck was nicknamed an “Emeryville” because the International Harvester cabover trucks of those days were built in Emeryville, California.
Radio Interviews and Shows
I suppose that the road trip to Boston made me curious about how different industries work, and spawned my interest in doing a series of business interviews for WDAN. I created a feature broadcast series titled “Danville Perspective” in which I talked to various business men of the community to learn a little more about how their businesses operated and what set their business apart from competitors.
Since our offices were downtown, I started with businesses right in the area of North and Vermilion Streets, and then expanded out from there. Walgreen Drug Store was just across the street, and was one of my favorites because of their lunch counter. I learned to love my Dutch apple pie with melted cheddar cheese and cinnamon sauce on the top at that Walgreens.
Other businesses back then were the Carson, Pirie, Scott Department Store that had all things for the home, Woodbury Bookstore, a classy place, filled with hardcover books, stationery, greeting cards, and nice gifts. Lea and I used to go there to purchase variety packs of tea with intriguing names like Earl Grey, Constant Comment, and Cozy Camomile.
Deutsch Brothers (pronounced “DIEtch”) was known for fine men’s clothing and beautiful window displays with hats, shirts, silk ties and cashmere coats displayed amid wood paneling, stained glass windows and elegant showcases. Alexander Sporting Goods, just south of Harrison carried leather Spalding baseball gloves, Wilson basketballs, Garcia fishing reels, Winchester rifles and Case pocket knives. It was a guys leisuretime dreamland.
Down at the end of Vermilion, at Main, was the Palmer Bank building, resembling a fortified temple with tall limestone columns, white marble lined interior walls and enormous brass light fixtures. It was the epitome of strength and security. It made one proud to do business there.
Nearby was one of my longtime sponsors, Meis (pronounced Meese) Brothers Department Store on the southeast corner of Main and Hazel. Meis Brothers featured a huge variety of appliances, clothing, china and other household goods, and a long ramp to the massive toy department on which the children loved to play.
Eventually, the popular series, sponsored by Woodbury’s bookstore for several years, led to a referral by the local Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad agent to the home office about the series, and resulted in a road trip in the cab of a “Chicago-Danville Flyer” passenger train, and a return trip in a freight locomotive
The C&EI Danville Flyer
I waited on the designated morning for the passenger train to pick me up at the Danville depot, where I had coffee and a sweet roll provided by the railroad agent. The cafe in the depot was bustling with passengers waiting for the train to arrive on its morning trip to Chicago.
The Flyer was taking a little longer to get out of the barn that morning, and the agent was trying to make sure everyone was prepared to board quickly during the train’s brief stop. In those days freight trains would stop at nearly every little town between Danville and Chicago, to pick up mail, freight and other items. The “Danville Flyer,” however, was a passenger express, and ran at high speed before slowing in Chicago.
When standing outside the depot, peering down the track for sight of the oncoming train, you could hear car horns echoing in the Fairchild Street underpass that dropped under the railroad tracks a block to the north.
Everyone had to blow their horn, it seems, just to hear it echo in the half-block long tunnel. If there was a pedestrian walking through, the honks got a little longer for more emphatic echos. It didn’t take much to entertain us back then!
The C&EI Depot
The C&EI Railroad Passenger Station was built in 1916-1917, after the Fairchild Street underpass was finished. The depot cost $130,000 and opened on June 2, 1917. During the 1960s, the C&EI RR route went from Chicago to Danville and then split with one line headed southeast to Evansville, Indiana, and the other line turned southwest toward Chester, Illinois and the Mississippi River.
The C&EI depot seemed enormous with its vaulted ceilings in the waiting rooms, mahogany benches and woodwork, mosaic tiled floor and the diner-like restaurant which was open 24 hours a day. Rec Cap porters loaded travelers luggage on carts and stood in the shade of the depot’s canopy as the train approached.
I had the radio station’s portable reel-to-reel tape recorder, and made sure to take extra reels of tape and extra “C” batteries. The recorder used 3″ plastic reels of tape and held about 15 minutes of recording time on each reel. It used a crystal type microphone which had a stop/start switch for the recorder which was handy for pausing recording.
I also carried magnetic earphones so I could monitor background noise. WDAN’s chief engineer, Bill Shoop, equipped the recorder with a carry strap so I could sling it from my shoulder to keep my hands free to hold notes in one and the mike in the other.
The railroad had granted my request for an engine ride followed by interviews with crew and passengers to help publicize the railroad, its people, and its services. This was in the mid-sixties, and passenger service for many railroads was drying up. Granting this interview was a public relations move by the railroad to get some favorable publicity for their services.
I was privileged to ride in the engine so I could interview the local Danville crew about the “Flyer’s” operations, and later in the trip I would talk to the conductor’s train crew and several passengers for their insights.
It turned out that getting from the engine to the trailing coaches was facilitated by a brief stop on the line necessitated by a freight train which hadn’t yet cleared a crossing ahead, and the “Flyer” had to wait for a “go” signal when the track was clear.
I was prepared to climb down the side ladder from the cab, and walk back to the coaches on the graveled trackside path, but the engineer took me through a door behind his seat, and alongside the two 12-cylinder engines and air compressor to a door in the rear that opened to the entrance to the crew lounge, tool and supply car behind. And, through that car were the coaches, one of which had a small deli counter with sweet rolls and coffee.
The trip was very interesting. I interviewed many Danville area residents in the coaches and lounge car, many of whom were regular “Flyer” trippers, and had stories to tell of various experiences on the road ranging from interesting people to memorable events and holiday themed trains. Many had stories of their waits in Dearborn Station, where trains were coming and going at a steady pace, mishaps, chance meetings, and colorful people.
The locomotive’s horns ruined many parts of interviews that would have to be edited out later when putting together the programs. I quickly learned to just wait until we went past the crossing they were sounding the horn for, and then ask the interview question over again. That was a challenge when passing through several towns that had multiple railroad crossings.
My return trip was made in the engine of a freight train that was heading south to Evansville several hours before the “Flyer” would start its evening run. This locomotive was not nearly as nice and clean as the Flyer’s engine. The exterior paint job was quite faded, and the interior of the cab was in need of a good sweeping and wiping down. The paint on the ends of the throttle and engine brake handles was worn away right down to the bare brass metal from constant use.
This was a hard working engine, and had been for many years. There was a long line of freight cars coupled to the rear, but I barely noticed, as I entered from the short hood end and stepped into the cab.
The engine noise was louder than in the Flyer’s cab, but the horns were located at the end of the long hood, away from the cab, which was much easier on my ears, because the Flyer had the horns mounted right above the cab. I began to understand, however, when the horns were required to be sounded, and that there were four parts of the required signalling.
The locomotive for the return trip was an older EMD GP-7 Road Switcher with three seats in the cab. Two were at the windows on either side for the engineer, on the right, and the fireman on the left, with a third seat located behind and between the other two. That seat doesn’t offer much of a view of the roadside, but was intended for supervisory personnel when on board to train or evaluate the cab crew.
This was my designated seat for the trip, although I spent most of the time standing behind the engineer or fireman, holding my microphone up close so we could hear them over the 16-cylinder engine noise.
As we were heading south, and not yet out of the lattice work of rails in the south Chicago area, the fireman got out of his chair and stood next to the back wall behind his seat, and I noticed the engineer leaned way forward and over his control stand. The fireman told me to “come stand here,” pointing to where he stood. He said, “We’re going by an area where they throw rocks, or sometimes shoot, at the windows.”
The return trip to Danville was much longer, and frankly, fairly boring after a while, as we often had to go slow, or completely stop on a siding to wait for another train pass. Sometimes we had to wait for over half an hour. And, to make things worse, I was hungry, and didn’t know to bring something to eat or drink with me.
It was interesting, though, to get to go up into the nose of the locomotive to pee in the “glory hole” tube, through which I could see the crossties pass below me. I’m not sure why, but that memory always stuck with me. I guess it was, perhaps, because I hadn’t thought about train crews needing to relieve themselves, and connected that with the signs in the passenger coaches that said, “Do not use (restroom) while stopped at the station.”
I’m not sure we got home any sooner than if I had waited for the Flyer to make its return trip, but it was certainly interesting to be able to ride in the freight locomotive, and see how different the operating practices were between the passenger service, and the just “down and dirty” everyday work of picking up and dropping off of freight cars, filling out paperwork, and examining passing trains for equipment problems the crew may not have noticed.
“Danville Perspective” for The Chicago-Danville Flyer
I had collected a variety of sound recordings like engine noise and horn blasts while on the trains, but discovered while I was editing the shows together that I needed some additional sounds like trains passing by at various speeds, horn blasts in the distance, and in particular, the bell from outside the cab. Over the next few days I picked various spots along the route to record the needed sounds for my foley collection.
The recordings I made were eventually edited down into a series of ten 15-minute features that were sponsored by local merchants, and actually ran a second time a few weeks later due to requests to run the series again. After that second run, the edited programs, original interviews and foley tapes were stocked in the radio station’s library where they eventually passed into history.
Radio Commercial Production
One of the duties of a staff announcer at a radio station was to voice live commercials while performing a shift of scheduled events, such as newscasts, weather forecasts, music programs and, often, talk programs that included incoming phone calls or interviews. Often, live performances were broadcast for a variety of events.
Often some part of a shift might include a period of recording commercial messages in an adjoining studio, and many commercials included multiple characters, usually other staff announcers, sound effects and background music. Other duties might also include photo ops with contest winners or local personalities.
Shifts were usually broken down into Morning, which included signing the station on the air at a designated time, Mid-day, which usually included the hours following morning drive time through the 3-hour lunch period, 11:00- 1:00, Afternoon, Evening Drive, and Nighttime. Special assignments could take place at any time, including weekends.
The station’s most popular personality, or the senior announcer, had the Morning shift, and some stations also used a personality during Evening Drive. Nighttime announcers were often local people who worked part time.
I enjoyed doing commercial production and collecting sound effects for that purpose. I had created a decent foley library on reel-to-reel tape when I moved from KWRT in Boonville, Missouri to WDAN, in Danville, Illinois. There were all kinds of sounds in the city that I hadn’t experienced previously, and one that stood out for me was the one that won the Illinois Broadcasters Association Production Award for WDAN.
At that time I owned a 1966 MG Midget MK II convertible sports car with a four cylinder engine, dual carburetors, and wire wheels with speed spinners. One of WDAN’s advertising sponsors was a European auto dealership, and I had an idea to spice up their commercials with sound effects made with my Midget.
I put some thought into locations on the car where I could get a variety of sound effects i.e. a wheel well, on the front bumper, in the cabin with the top off and windows down, and on the rear bumper near the exhaust pipe.
It took a little Rube Goldberg rigging to get the analog tape recorder and microphone attached in these locations without doing any damage to the car or the equipment, but all went well. I took the car out driving on a variety of roads and locations, recording three minutes at a time, because that’s how long the reels of magnetic recording tape allowed.
So, there was a lot of starting and stopping recording to change tapes and to plan the next recording. But, in the end, I achieved some excellent sound effects to add to my foley library.
I used several of the recordings in a batch of new commercials for the dealership and they received excellent comments from customers about the improved quality of their advertisements. I submitted three of the series in the annual broadcasters association Commercial Production category.
One of the submittals won first place for the radio station! It was the sound bite taken from the rear wheel well when I slowed, then pulled on the emergency brake and slid the car a few inches to a stop on that light dusting of grit that covers paved parking lots.
Danville Civil Defense
One of my duties at WDAN was to refer potential guests to be interviewed on a segment of the morning shift produced, at that time, by Dave Reno. On one of my stops at the Danville Police Department to check the blotter, I met David Palmer, County Civil Defense Director.
He asked me what is involved in getting some public service messages on the air. I asked about his idea and he described his interest in creating a group of trained civilians to operate Fallout Shelters in case of nuclear attack.
He soon appeared on WDAN’s morning show, and during the interview, described the various posts and duties involved in managing a shelter after a nuclear bomb had been dropped and the population had sheltered in one of the many underground shelters provided by the Vermilion County Civil Defense agency.
Training was available for volunteers in a number of disciplines ranging from medical, food, sanitation, safety and shelter management. Several telephone calls came in to the studio from listeners who wanted particular details, and several other calls were made to the Civil Defense office by folks who were interested in volunteering.
Soon, Palmer had an adequate list of volunteers to get his program underway. He had peaked my interest, so, I kept in touch with his progress, and soon was engaged in designing a logo for the Vermilion County Civil Defense Agency, which was adopted immediately upon completion.
I had previously completed training in Red Cross CPR which was the requisite to working in emergency services in those days, and I volunteered to take the Civil Defense Self-Help Medical Trainer courses, which was more detailed than the Red Cross course.
The series of classroom and home study classes equipped me to use the U.S. Civil Defense Agency produced films to teach volunteers some of the rudimentary skills and practices needed to administer the health program in a fallout shelter.
One of the films in the series dealt quite explicitly with childbirth, and the procedure for delivering a baby. I had one lady attending the class who fainted and completely fell out of her chair to the floor when the video of the vaginal area appeared on screen with the infant’s head beginning to crown. She was soon fine, but, needless to say, she chose not to complete the training.
I went on to complete additional training to become certified as a Civil Defense Shelter Manager, including courses and a lock-in exercise with real time problems introduced throughout the weekend exercise.
The hardest part of managing a shelter would have been turning away those who sought shelter after the doors had already been closed and locked because of radiation levels reaching critical levels. Each shelter would be indefinitely closed to anyone on the outside until residual radiation dropped to safe levels, which could take several months. Our group quickly identified that there should be a course in Law Enforcement Procedures developed for people willing to serve as security officers in a fallout shelter.
Parts of my Civil Defense Shelter Management training in the 1960s came into good use decades later, in October 2018, when Austin, Texas, our home at the time, issued its first ever BOIL WATER NOTICE due to historic flooding.
The city urged residents to cut consumption of water by 15-20 percent as the water treatment plant was struggling to clean the water in our reservoir lakes dirtied by silt and sediment carried downstream by the raging Colorado river.
The city also urged that tap water not be used for drinking, cooking or making ice without first boiling it for three full minutes to ensure no microorganisms were unknowingly consumed.
As soon as I got the text alert notifying me of the Boil Water Notice early Monday morning, I hurried to the nearest grocery store to stock up on bottled water. To no avail! There was a handwritten note taped to the front door stating that they were out of water!
I drove around the area looking for other sources, but saw notices taped to the front door of most retail doors carrying the same message, “NO WATER!” Fast food restaurants were not open. They had no equipment to boil water and no way to store large quantities of ice.
Late the next week, restaurants were still not serving iced drinks, offering instead, chilled bottled water or other chilled bottled beverages. We had about half a case of bottled water at home, a gallon container of distilled water, and a filled Dutch Oven, which I knew held about a gallon of water,
By mid-week those measures seemed to be working as Austin’s water treatment plants were processing enough water to meet conservative demand and reservoirs were refilling,
Shortly after the radio broadcasts were made from the fallout shelter, I was contacted by the Mayor’s office to see if I would come in to meet with the mayor, Al Gardner. When the meeting took place, the mayor asked me if I would be interested in serving the city as one of his advisors on the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, which I promptly accepted.
Civil Defense Police
In my After Action Report to Civil Defense Director, Dave Palmer, I noted the need for security personnel in shelters trained to protect and distribute food and water supplies and to handle general policing in shelters. In later discussions with him and Mayor Al Gardner, it was decided to create a Civil Defense Police Force, which could begin studying law enforcement from military manuals available at the time.
The course was mostly independent correspondence study with a few weekend classes taught by experienced law enforcement personnel, After achieving some field exercises and written exams, commissions were issued to those who successfully completed the training.
Meanwhile, uniforms had been produced for the new officers, and assignments began to arrive for duties we could perform that would free up the city’s police personnel.
I was in the first trio of officers to be added to the new Danville Auxiliary Police, and assigned patrol duties. Late in 1968 I was offered a full time position on the Danville Police Department, and joined the force in February 1969. I served on the Danville Police Department’s Color Guard for several years, and was pleased to have our unit selected to stand as Honor Guard for the U.S. President when he visited the Illinois State Fair in August, 1971.
In later years, after being promoted to sergeant on the police department, I was given responsibility of supervising the Auxiliary Police, and coordinating their assignments.
Berkhalter Ambulance Service
During one of my CD Police patrol tours I met a young man, Lyle Reed, who was an ambulance driver for a local funeral home. In those days ambulances were converted station wagons equipped with a cot, blankets and some cotton wound dressings. No medicines. Ambulance personnel were not trained in medical procedures and could do nothing more for a patient than what was taught in the American Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes.
I volunteered to make a few runs with Lyle to get more familiar with the services. I made several patient transfer runs, and a couple of emergency runs from accident scenes to the hospital.
The last call I made with him was a patient transfer from his apartment to the hospital. Lyle and I were each about 135 pounds, and on that call we had to bring a 300 pound man, on a cot, down steep steps from the third floor of an apartment building. It was very hard!
924 Sunset Ridge Drive
In the fall of 1972 Lea and I purchased a lot in a new subdivision, and contracted to have a ranch style three bedroom home constructed on a concrete slab. We financed through FHA and made the balance of the down payment through doin some of the construction work ourselves, such as painting walls and tiling floors. We also guaranteed some minimal landscaping would be done, such as planting grass for a lawn.
We had very nice next door neighbors, Bob & Karen, who also had young boys. Bob & Karen were managing a Monical’s Pizza store just a few blocks from our subdivision. One morning, very early, Karen called our house to see if Lea would go to the shop and make the dough for the day, as Karen & Bob had to rush to an out of town family emergency.
She told Lea that the instructions for making the dough was posted on the wall, and then it was very simple, but had to be done by 7:00 a.m. when the day manager would be in. Karen said that she would leave a key to the building inside our front storm door.
Lea had a lot of experience making bread, a Tate family tradition, but was a bit daunted when she arrived to find a “huge” mixer, and “big sacks” of dry yeast, flour, salt, sugar and flavored oil. The instructions for how to make the dough were clear, and other than having to lift heavy bags to load the mixer bowl, she had no trouble at all.
Until she turned on the mixer.
The speed setting had been left on high, and when she turned the power on, a huge cloud of flour burst from the bowl and flew around the room covering everything in a film of white dust! She was covered head to toe, but had to stay in the cloud to find the speed control before she realized it was too late, and just shut it off.
She started a new batch, and while the dough was ready in time, she spent all of the dough resting periods cleaning flour from every nook and cranny in the mixing room!
One evening, while living on Sunset Ridge, I noticed our next door neighbor, Bob sitting in a lawn chair in his front yard near what remained of an old, hollowed out, tree trunk. The old tree had been left when developers built the subdivision, but, it had died, rotted away over time, and was now just a nuisance that he was burning away, garden hose laying at the ready by his side.
I grabbed one of our lawn chairs from the garage and went over to keep him company. Soon, the wives joined us, and we were having an enjoyable time watching the tree trunk burn away. Suddenly, a police car rounded the corner and pulled up along the curb. The officer said, “Oh, hi Sarge! We got a call about illegal burning up here!” He quickly saw that the situation was well in hand, and after visiting for a couple of minutes, went on his way. We’ve had several good laughs about that over the years!
I continued to have an interest in flying, and enjoyed going to airports and watching private and commercial aircraft departing and arriving with graceful takeoffs and landings. I marvelled at how many variations of aircraft design you could see in just a few minutes of driving around the grounds and watching pilots performing their pre-flight checks.
I pursued private pilot training at Highland Airport, Perryville, Indiana.
The church was an important part of my youth, and after marrying and moving to a new state to pursue my career, we continued to be active in church activities. The church we belonged to was a traditional Baptist church with a very comfortable, if time worn, worship routine. My wife was baptized there in that church in November 1966, while nine months pregnant with our first child, Link. I had been baptized as an adolescent, January 12, 1958 at Immanuel Baptist Church, Hannibal, Missouri. The pastor at that time was Harold Smeltzer.
Shortly after our second son was born in 1969 we joined a newly established fundamental Baptist church that was meeting in a rented church building. The minister’s messages were thought provoking and rousing, his teaching style expository. All teaching was done directly from the scripture itself.
The young pastor, new to the community, had a very aggressive community outreach program, tirelessly reaching out to teens and youth to bring them into the church family. The music director was a reformed “bad apple” who barely skirted a stint in prison before getting his life straightened out and turning to a music ministry. Both had brought their young families to the community to establish a new church whose mission was to reach into underserved areas of the community.
The charismatic pastor had a vision for building a grand church complex and grounds including a full service retirement community for elderly church faithful. The congregation was enthusiastic about the idea, and the community was surprisingly, and liberally, responsive. Fundraising efforts for the proposed Baptist Community exceeded expectations. The church seemed to be attaining its goals much more quickly than projected.
Donations of land suitable for a church complex, including a retirement home and hospital, were received. Vehicles were donated to help transport members and guests to church on Sundays. The number of volunteers, and the treasury, quickly swelled. The congregation grew dramatically.
It was a wonderful time to be involved in the Lord’s ministry. My wife and I were very heavily involved, working to increase membership and soliciting contributions to the church, hosting weekly bible study, and I even drove one of the church buses on its route.
I was seriously considering entering the church’s ministry on a full time basis. The pastor had talked to me several times about joining the team and devoting all my time to His service. It seemed to me that I was being led to make the decision. I didn’t really want to leave my employer at the time, but was almost ready to take the step. It seemed natural. My great-grandfather, grandfather and an uncle were Baptist ministers, and it seemed my ministry was going to be in church service, too.
Then, one morning, the pastor, his family, and his entire staff, disappeared. They couldn’t be found. The treasury was gone, too! Members’ phones were ringing off the hook as we attempted to figure out what was going on. It eventually was determined that the pastor had manipulated all donations to be put into his own name until formal church foundations could be established. So, he owned everything he took with him. And, he left the church flat broke, and its congregation broken and dejected.
I was emotionally devastated. I just simply could not believe that this had happened to our church! I couldn’t believe it had happened to me! I had been working hard to help the church meet its goals, and had become one of the leaders in reaching out into the community. I had personally solicited many of the donations that had been made, and I was too humiliated to overcome this blow to my ego.
My humiliation eventually turned to rejection. Rejection of organized religion. I was too proud to go back to the church we used to attend. I would have had to admit that it was wrong to move my family’s membership to the new church led by a false prophet. I let my pride get in the way. I allowed Satan to drive a wedge between me and God. I left the church, terribly disheartened, and vowed to worship by myself in the future, rather than taking a chance on supporting another false leader.
I firmly believe it is this decision to leave the church that led to severe biblical discipline I later received. Scripture teaches that you can’t become a Christian and then just live your life any way you want. You have an obligation to fulfill your life’s ministry, and your heavenly father takes that obligation seriously. You should, too.