EIU Memories: Stix and Panther Paw

Welcome to the fourth installment of my series reminiscing about my time at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. I attended EIU from 2000 to 2008, eventually earning a Master’s in History. Both the college and the town have changed a lot since then. I wasn’t much for the bar scene in Charleston, but these local watering holes are a staple of college life.

Panther Paw Bar & Grill, at 1412 4th Street, is one of the closer bars to campus. It’s a short walk up 4th Street from Pemberton Hall, across Lincoln Avenue. It was originally owned by Don and Louise Yost and John Budslick and known as Stix, built during the summer of 1990 over a former residential site. Yost and Budlick had previously operated a billiard hall in Carbondale, Illinois by the same name, and thought it would be successful in Charleston.

Stix ad, Sept. 1990.

Stix opened in early September 1990 and was originally a full restaurant and billiard hall, employing up to 60 people as waitresses, cooks, bartenders, disc jockeys, and doormen. It featured 15 Top Flyte pool tables and served breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Ten years later, when I first stepped onto campus as a freshman, local tastes had changed. That summer, Stix rebranded itself as a dance club. They built a stage, refinished the floor with wood, and tore down several walls to open up a dance floor. Patrons ordered food through a window, rather than from a waitress.

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Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York

Oakwood Cemetery, at 940 Comstock Avenue, next to Syracuse University, in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York, was designed by landscape architect Howard Daniels and opened in 1859. It is a secular Victorian “rural” or “garden” style cemetery where over 60,000 people are interred in 160 acres. This is by far the most interesting cemetery I’ve ever visited in the U.S., with Gothic and Victorian mausoleums and family plots dotting undulating, wooded hills. It’s positively Tim Burtonesque in some areas.

Time Waits for No One

Henry Winfield Chapin (1867-1954) and his wife Marie Arnold Chapin (1873-1956) are interred in the shadow of these beautiful Greek Corinthian columns. Henry was president of the Brown-Lipe Chapin Company, which manufactured automobile parts for Ford Motors and Yellow Cab.

Patterns in the Ivy

Broken headstone for Marion Strong White (1844-1875). Marion was the wife of Horace K. White. She was a wealthy and by all accounts graceful and intelligent socialite, and died of illness at the young age of 30.

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Johnstown Battlefield Historic Sites

Click to expand photos

This little-known battle, fought after the British surrender at Yorktown, was the last engagement of the Revolutionary War in New York.

The Battle of Johnstown was fought on October 25, 1781 between American forces commanded by Col. Marinus Willett and British forces commanded by Maj. John Ross and Capt. Walter Butler in Johnstown, Fulton County, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was an American victory and ended the last Tory uprising in the Mohawk Valley. The British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia six days earlier effectively ended the war in the Continental US.

During the Revolutionary War, the Mohawk Valley in central New York was torn between Patriots who advocated for American independence and Tories who wanted to remain loyal to the British Crown. John Johnson, whose estate was in Johnstown, was a prominent Tory who fled to Canada to escape arrest. He formed the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, which participated in annual raids into the valley.

In the fall of 1781, a substantial force of approximately 700 British regulars, militia, and Iroquois warriors entered the valley in order to destroy its agricultural yield before it could be used to supply the Continental Army. On October 25, approximately 416 American militia commanded by Col. Marinus Willett caught up with them outside Johnstown. Willett violated military convention by dividing his forces in the face of a numerically superior enemy.

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New Poughkeepsie Diner in Poughkeepsie, New York

New Poughkeepsie Diner (aka Cy’s Deli) at 59 Market Street, off U.S. Highway 44, in Poughkeepsie, New York. “But wait, that’s not a diner!” You yell self-righteously. I was as surprised as you to learn this used to be a 1960 Kullman model diner. Apparently it was also known as the Pok Diner at some point, but it closed in November 2014. Chalk up a win for deli enthusiasts and a loss for diner fans in the Hudson Valley.

Diner Resources

Alex Jones and the Problem of Historic Speculation

While Alex Jones has faced widespread condemnation for promoting wild theories, Hollywood continues to embrace filmmakers who peddle fake history.

Texas-based conspiracy theorist Alex Jones recently appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience after the two alternative media personalities’ longtime friendship threatened to very publicly implode. Jones, whose accounts have been banned from multiple social media platforms, has found himself under attack from all sides, including a messy divorce. The Rogan podcast garnered over 7.5 million views in a few days.

Jones was incredibly forthright and honest during the interview’s first hour, admitting he had been wrong in the past, and that he had, basically, sold the rope his critics are using to hang him. His investigation into true conspiracies, like Operation Northwoods and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, led him to believe everything is a conspiracy.

Conspiracies do happen, but conspiracy theorists take this concept to the extreme, alleging “false flag” operations and government coverups behind every major current event. Conspiracy theories are attractive because they often contain grains of truth, which when put together, the theorist uses to come to an incredible (and often incredibly false) conclusion.

For example, over the course of Rogan’s epic 280-minute long interview, Jones ranged from claims about morally dubious scientific studies, which actually took place, to allegations that “global elites” are in contact with (or at least believe they are in contact with) interdimensional beings who demand blood sacrifices in exchange for advanced technology.

That’s a pretty big leap.

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Illinois’ Decade of Lost Legends

Over the past ten to fifteen years, Illinois has lost nearly a dozen historic (and allegedly haunted) places to development and disaster. Some, like Alonzi’s Villa in Brookfield, the Lindbergh School on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates, and Sacred Heart Chapel at Barat College in Lake Forest, were destroyed to make way for real estate development. Others, like Sunset Haven outside Carbondale, were destroyed to erase the building (and its notorious reputation) from public memory.

The Lindbergh School on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates was genuinely a historic landmark known for its unique architecture and its significance to local history, regardless of its ghost stories. For years, preservationists tried desperately to save the building from the chopping block. Unfortunately, in 2007, bulldozers knocked it down to make way for yet another subdivision, just before the housing bubble burst and real estate values plummeted.

Sunset Haven, located on the periphery of Carbondale, Illinois and owned by Southern Illinois University, was a longtime destination for legend tripping in southern Illinois. It was originally the Jackson County Poor Farm almshouse became known as Sunset Haven during the 1940s when it was converted into a nursing home. The nursing home closed in 1957 and Southern Illinois University purchased the property to expand its agricultural program. Around October 26, 2013, a crew from SIU demolished Sunset Haven, leaving nothing but a cement foundation.

White Hall at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois was demolished in 2015. Chanute Air Force Base opened in July 1917. After its closure in 1993, much of the base was divided into residential and commercial properties, but most of the core buildings remain abandoned. Inevitably, local kids exploring the abandoned parts of the base began to bring home unusual stories, particularly regarding White Hall. The building was ruled an environmental hazard and too costly to renovate.

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