Answer Man: Letters on dugout rooftops mystify reader

News-DemocratMarch 8, 2014 

Q. Today I watched the St. Louis Cardinal spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter and noticed "BB&T" on the roof of the dugouts. What does that mean? -- T.S., of Fairview Heights

A. Have you heard what the enterprising Alex Benda is doing?

This spring, he hopes to graduate from the University of Michigan at Flint with a major in international business. He'll also be graduating with a debt of $30,000 in student loans.

So in hopes of cutting into or even paying off that massive obligation, the 22-year-old St. Clair, Mich., senior has started to sell advertising space on the graduation mortarboard he'll wear on his head.

That's right -- he's reportedly selling 100 square-inch squares at $300 a pop. He says he already has lined up about $5,000. So when he marches across the stage to "Pomp and Circumstance" to receive his diploma, he'll be putting his marketing degree to good use by perhaps reminding spectators that things go better with Coke and KFC is still finger-lickin' good.

With that in mind, you can just bank on what BB&T is. If you listen to Cardinal broadcasts you know that almost every foul ball nowadays is sponsored by one company or another. In this case, BB&T (like UMB, BOS, PNC and a lot of other banks that now go simply by letters) is an ad for Branch Banking & Trust. Based in Winston-Salem, N.C., it has 1,800 locations in a dozen states, including near Jupiter, Fla.

Q. When I was 3 or 4, a fire destroyed my family's house early one winter morning. We all escaped safely, but the house was destroyed. I have the article, but my mother did not date it. I've been looking for that date for at least five years, and now I'm turning to you. My father's name was Elmer Siebert. Please help. -- Rose Marie Brown, of Belleville

A. I think I've been in this business too long.

After you called, I immediately dashed to the library to consult my very favorite resource for all area events that happened before 1940. It's the WPA card file, and it lists every important story in all of the local papers back into the 19th century.

But when I thumbed through the Sieberts, it went from Dorothy to Emil. No Elmer. Drat. Now what? There didn't seem much other option.

But just as I was about to leave with my tail between my legs, it unfortunately hit me: What do reporters occasionally do? They misspell names. So knowing how popular "Seibert" is in this area, I looked for Elmer Seibert. Sure enough, there it was -- a sentence telling me about a fire that destroyed your family home on Jan. 26, 1936.

But that's just half the story. When I returned to the paper, I looked up the story for details. Guess what? "Jan. 26, 1936" was a Sunday, the day of the week the Daily Advocate didn't publish. Great. Was it the wrong month? The wrong year?

Again, my "bad" reporter's instincts kicked in. I'll bet the day had a typo. Bingo. The story actually ran on Jan. 25, 1936, the day your mom arose at 4 a.m. to light the oven. When she walked into the kitchen she found a "mass of flames" at your childhood home five miles southwest of Freeburg.

She quickly helped hustle you, your dad and four siblings safely out of the house, but the fire had had such a head start that the Freeburg Fire Department wasn't even called. The house was a $3,000 loss.

I hope this helps complete your scrapbook -- and that I haven't made additional errors in the process.

Q. In your story last Sunday about West Belleville, it states that the home at 210 Voss Place is the oldest brick house in Belleville. Did you mean West Belleville? My family lived in the first block of South 8th, and I was always told that the house two doors south of us -- No. 21, I think -- was the oldest and is on the National Historic Register. -- Bill Guthrie, of Smithton

A. With the help of area history scholar Bob Brunkow, I'm afraid I have to debunk that urban myth.

According to Brunkow, the house on what is now Voss Place had already been built when Theodore Hilgard bought his 134-acre farm in 1836 from John Dennis. Brunkow thinks Dennis likely built it in the early 1830s.

So Frederick von Schrader was a relative latecomer when he built his house at 23 S. 8th in about 1855. I also don't find it on the national historic places list I've downloaded, although "it is a great candidate," Brunkow says.

You are right, however, that von Schrader did own a distillery on the northeast corner of West Main and North 8th, which likely led to the block between 8th and 9th being commonly called Whiskey Hill.

Today's trivia

Who is the only king to have a statue in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall?

Answer to Saturday's trivia: Although popularized by mystery writer Raymond Chandler, the term "private eye" is thought to stem from the Pinkerton National Detective Agency's use of an open eye as its logo and the motto "We Never Sleep." The agency was founded in 1850 in Chicago.

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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