Saturday, January 14, 2017

Visiting Spottswood Poles Grave In Arlington National Cemetery

This past summer, my wife and I lived in Washington D.C. and during our couple of months there I spend the good part of two days walking around in the midday sun in Arlington National Cemetery. If you ever make it to the nation's capital I highly recommend it as you can easily visit the big names (JFK, RFK, William Howard Taft) or expand your visit to visit the graves of a whole host of lesser known celebrities and historical figures. 

While planning out my walking route around the cemetery, a name jumped out at me that was familiar, Spottswood Poles. A great Negro League player, he also served in World War I, making him eligible to be buried at Arlington. With a little effort (there are about 400,000 graves in the cemetery), I was able to locate his grave.

Spottswood, shortened to simply Spot, was one of the best speed demons on the bases in the early days of the Negro Leagues. He debuted with the Philadelphia Giants in 1909 (pictured below) and bounced around with several teams through 1923. He is credited with having a .400+ batting average over his career and had great success in inter-league play against white teams. 

Poles' World War I service was in the 369th Infantry Regiment which earned the nickname of the "Harlem Hellfighters" as it was based out of New York. The regiment was the first African American regiment in the Army and was active all the way through the end of World War II. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Lincoln In Decatur

If you've ever been to the central region of Illinois, you know that there is no one bigger than Abraham Lincoln. He's certainly the biggest tourism pull in the area and just about every city tries to make some sort of connection to our 16th President.

Decatur has one of the stronger cases of actually being connected to Lincoln as he moved to the small town in 1830 with his family and it was the first home for him in Illinois. He was 21 at the time and it says so on the statue to Abraham on the campus of Millikin University, Decatur's main college. I can't help but think that someday my statue will say "At Thirty-Seven I Came To Illinois."

Here is the monument which has him at 21 with an axe and some fallen timber.

Here's the plaque on the monument which gives some more detail on Lincoln's Decatur story. There is another Lincoln statue in the downtown Decatur that highlights where Lincoln gave his first political speech on the streets of the town and I will highlight that in another post.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Green Aisles

Moving to Illinois has been an interesting transition as my new town of Decatur reminds me a lot of Lawrence, Kansas but the cornfields around the town remind me of home in rural Wisconsin. Here's a view from the road leading to the kennel where we board our dog from time to time.

Driving around these roads reminds me of one of my all-time favorite songs "Green Aisles" by Real Estate. If you aren't familiar with the band, they make a type of music described as "dream pop" with a real calm and mellow sound. I typically listen to music or a podcast while going to sleep and the album that "Green Aisles" is on, Days, is an album that has helped me reach dreamland many times.

All those wasted miles
All those aimless drives
Through green aisles
Our careless lifestyle
It was not so unwise, no 

That is the chorus that the "green aisles" lyrics can be found and it speaks to me as our non-traditional lifestyle these past few years has led us to Ukraine and back and across the United States has proven to be a wonderful and life-changing experience. I wouldn't go so far as to say our lifestyle was "careless" as the lyric goes but it has been unconventional and full of unexpected twists. I will admit though that a return to "green aisles" is a nice change of pace.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What Have I Done?

I realized that as a Green Bay Packers fan I was treading on some dangerous ground moving to Decatur, Illinois. But I had no idea what exactly I was walking into until seeing the sign welcoming me to my new home. 

Before the Chicago Bears were called the "Chicago Bears" they were founded as the Decatur Staleys in 1919. An odd name for a team, to be sure, they were named after the parent company that started the team, A.E. Staley, which was a corn processor. The company still exists today as a part of the larger collection of companies known as Sysco.

The Decatur Staleys were run by George Halas and played one season in Decatur as a part of what was called the American Professional Football Association [APFA]. They would move to Chicago and become the Chicago Staleys in 1921 and became the Bears when the APFA became the National Football League in 1922.

So that's more Bears knowledge than I thought I would ever know or am comfortable with...other than that Jay Cutler is 2-11 lifetime against the Packers.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

What A Long Trip It's Been

What started out as a "for the summer" relocation to Washington DC, turned out to be a summer filled with adventures all across the East Coast and our new home in Decatur, Illinois.

Many posts will follow about our adventures but a brief rundown of the highlights we saw along the way including:

The Appalachian Mountains in rural Pennsylvania
State Capitols of Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New Hampshire
The Baseball Hall of Fame
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Downtown Manhattan
Laura's hometown in New Jersey
My brother-in-law's wedding near Burlington, Vermont
The Atlantic Ocean coast in Portland, Maine
Lake Ontario and Toronto, Canada

And we finally arrived in Decatur, Illinois, which was the location of Abraham Lincoln's first home in Illinois after moving here with his family from southern Indiana when he was 21. It is said he gave his first political speech here which attracted the attention of Illinois political leaders. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The View From My Window #23: Vermont

Don't let the the cactus in the foreground fool you, those rolling hills in the background are located in the Green Mountain State of Vermont near Mount Mansfield. I'm here for a wedding and the wedding venue on top of a hill has amazing views as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Free Stamps From The Postal Museum

When Laura and I started making lists of what to see during our time in Washington, she laughed when she came upon "The Postal Museum." "That's one museum I think I will skip," I remember her saying. But my interest was peaked and last week I got a chance to visit it (along with Union Station which is located right across the street). 

While it doesn't compare to the Smithsonian's other museums, it is a time capsule of how the Post Service has changed since our nation's founding. The museum location itself was Washington's main post office from 1914 until 1986. The building architecture is the Beaux-Arts style which was popular in the United States from 1880 until about 1920.

One of the neat things about the museum is that in one of the rooms where you can design your stamp, you can also dig through a big pile of stamps and take home six to jump start your stamp collection.

Here are my six stamps (including two foreign stamps.) We begin with two presidents, Woodrow Wilson (the only political scientists to ever be President) and Abraham Lincoln (who lost every public election he took part in before being elected president). The 4-cent Lincoln stamp was issued in 1954 and the Wilson $1 stamp produced in 1938 .

I also picked up two space-related stamps, one honoring Project Mercury and the other featuring Skylab. The Project Mercury stamp was issued in 1962 and has John Glenn's space capsule as it orbits the Earth for the first time. The Skylab 10-cent stamp is from 1974 and was produced in honor of the first anniversary of Skylab's launch.

My two foreign stamps include one from East Germany and one from Israel. As you might expect from a communist country, the stamp is in honor of a worker. The bright red Israeli stamp features Nahal Baraq Canyon located in the southern district of Israel.