Answer Man: What happened to the Belleville Chamber of Commerce?

News-DemocratMarch 7, 2014 

When I left Belleville, the Belleville Chamber of Commerce had its headquarters in a building across from the Meyer Bros. Cadillac dealership on West Main Street. What has happened to the Chamber? Is that building, erected in 1962, still there? (Before that, it was in the old Hotel Belleville.) My father, James H. Walwark, was president of the group in 1958-59, just before he died in 1960. I worked there from 1962 to 1964. I always enjoy your trips down Belleville's memory lane. -- Dale Walwark, of Maraga, Calif.

You'd better lace up your sneakers for a lengthy trot: Not only was its building razed, but the Chamber also underwent two name changes and moved across town. Let's see if I can get you up to speed:

As recently as the 1960s, my family dined at Engler's Hotel at 300 W. Main and I frequently perused the shelves at Belleville Book and Gift at 310. You could bowl at Bel-Bola Lanes across the street and bank at Belleville National Savings Bank at 330.

As you probably remember, Meyer Bros. had showrooms and lots at both 335 and 402, and Bi-State tinkered with their buses at its garage at 406. Your chamber welcomed residents and business owners at 334.

The landscape has changed radically. Engler's was replaced by a one-story brick office building, and the only other business in the 300 block on the south side is a Bank of America branch. Where the Meyer dealerships used to be are a secretary of state's driver services office on the south and the Okaw Valley Boy Scout headquarters across the street. Once a cable TV office, the site of the bowling alley now houses Lutheran Children and Family Service.

As for the Chamber itself, it became Belleville Economic Progress Inc. on Aug. 1, 1984, only to change back to the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 20, 2001. (The term "chamber," it explained, dates back to the 14th century and signifies the voice that speaks for a community.) In 1992, it moved to 216 E. A St. Its old building was knocked down in the early '90s.

Two final possible shockers for you: Remember the L.R. McKinley & Sons/Jack Schmitt Chevrolet showroom? It has been converted into city office space at 510 W. Main.

And that Hotel Belleville? After being converted into the Meredith Memorial Home in 1962 by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, it closed in 2010 and was purchased by the city. Because of its lack of parking, the city wants to raze the building for a park, but preservationists still are looking into rehabbing the structure, whose history dates to 1840.

She'll fix your clock: Calls continue to pour in about a story on a woman who moved to Belleville last fall and opened a clock-repair business. We inadvertently left out how to contact her, so allow me to provide that timely information: Stephanie Funkhauser, L&S Clock Repair, 2412 Richland Prairie Blvd., 234-4401, www.lsclockrepair.com.

We love Bosco: It's rich and chocolaty, as the old jingle used to go. And if you still love it, you may be able to find it at World Market in Shiloh as Shirley Frost did when her son wanted some.

Or do as my faithful reader Sandee Kane did and contact the company directly through Bosco Products Inc., 441 Main Road, Towaco, N.J. 07082-1201 or www.boscoworld.com.

Perhaps I shouldn't tell you that Alfred Hitchcock used Bosco for the blood scenes in "Pscyho." In fact, if you want to see them slathering the syrup on an actor in "Night of the Living Dead" go to www.nostalgia.boscoworld.com and scroll down.

Fact checker: I just received another reminder about how difficult it is to write questions for trivia nights.

With the current streak of Wichita State in mind, I recently asked in my column about past college basketball teams that had undefeated seasons.

In my mind, I was thinking men's teams, but I did not specify. So the quick-thinking Jim Filanda wrote to point out I had, of course, omitted the Connecticut women in 1995 (35-0) as well as 2002, 2009 and 2010, when the Huskies wound up 39-0 each year. And, while we're setting the record straight, let's not forget the Texas women in 1986, Tennessee in 1998 and Baylor in 2012, which became the first team men or women to win 40 games by going 40-0.

I think I may be safe in saying that the Huskie women's 90-game win streak from Nov. 16, 2008, to Dec. 30, 2010, is still the longest in NCAA history.

Today's trivia

What is believed to be the origin of the term "private eye"?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: On October 14, 1947, a Bell X-1 carrying Chuck Yaeger was dropped from the bomb bay of a B-29 and proceeded to officially break the sound barrier for the first time. To honor him, the makers of the 1983 flick "The Right Stuff" gave him a cameo role -- as Fred the bartender at Pancho's Place. While some might consider that a slight considering his flying feats, Yaeger in his autobiography with Leo Janos said it was most appropriate: "If all the hours were ever totaled, I reckon I spent more time at (Florence 'Pancho' Barnes') place than in a cockpit over those years."

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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