Answer Man: Belleville Monopoly couldn't pass 'Go'

News-DemocratMay 23, 2014 

I have been wondering about the Belleville Monopoly game. Have there been more than one? Who sold these? -- Ward 2 Alderwoman Janet Schmidt, of Belleville

The last time city residents took a ride on the Illinois Central and collected $200 for passing Go was back before the turn of the century with the debut of Bellevilleopoly: The Millennium Edition.

Just in time for the 1999 Christmas shopping season, Belleville Main Street Inc. announced that it was making 500 copies available for sale at various downtown businesses for $25 each.

The takeoff on the classic Parker Brothers game used local landmarks instead of the standard Marvin Gardens and Park Place along with pictures of Bellevue Park and St. Peter's Cathedral to spruce up the middle of the board. (Fellow Alderman Joseph Hayden once said that the now-vacant Meredith Home was Boardwalk.)

I'm guessing they did not exactly fly off the shelves, because copies still were being pushed the following Christmas. Since then, it, like a previous version for which I can only find a passing reference, has disappeared. Three years ago, I ran into a copy at Keil's Antiques at 26 E. Main St., but a couple of city leaders at the time told me they had no plans to take a chance on another edition.

Such games apparently are cute in theory but may be as popular as a go-directly-to-jail card. At the same time that Belleville introduced its updated model, the Collinsville Animal Network rolled the dice on its own $20 version with players landing on Ashmann's Pharmacy, Butterfield Jewelers, etc. Five years later, the group blew the dust off boxes of unsold games and gave them away for a $5 donation.

Flying high: If there are any lingering doubts about the vitality and importance of Scott Field in the 1920s and '30s, Celine Kaiser can shoot them down faster than an F/A-18 on a bombing run.

After World War I, Scott Field was converted into a lighter-than-air base with an emphasis on balloons and dirigibles to advance aerial photography, meteorology and other research. Earlier this week, a reader wondered whether this may have been a failure a la MidAmerica Airport.

It was anything but, says Kaiser, who, born in 1919, celebrated her 95th birthday Friday. When the O'Fallon woman was growing up, she remembers family friends coming in from California and they, like most other tourists, had two places on their must-see list: the St. Louis Zoo -- and Scott Field.

She figures she was 5 or 6 when she made her initial visit, a time when the base's security protocol was apparently much less stringent than today. By that time, the base had finished building its new airship hangar, a gargantuan structure three blocks long, a block wide and 15 stories high.

"It was huge," she said, who remembered visitors oohing and aahing over the size. "I felt lost in it. It just seemed endless."

In one corner was a pile of woven balloon passenger baskets, and, on one, she still distinctly remembers seeing dried blood. Of course, it was such ballooning accidents and tragedies as the Hindenburg that led the Army Air Corps to end all lighter-than-air activities nationwide by the time Kaiser was a teenager in 1937.

By the way, thanks also to Flyguy for sending me a picture of a blue-and-white oval pin from the era showing a dirigible with the proud label "Belleville Home of Scott-Field."

Raising a stink: Elizabeth Faulbaum Brown couldn't resist telling me about the days when she and her husband, Roy, used to shop at the old Taylor Sales Co. at 120 E. Main St., Belleville.

"They had all sorts of wonderful items such as skunk perfume, itchy-coo power, whoopee cushions, plastic vomit and dog poop," she wrote. "If you were into magic tricks, there was a nice selection of those, too. There were well-guarded, plastic-wrapped girlie magazines behind the counter, too.

"Amazingly the place was dark and dreary, and the man behind the counter didn't seem too happy to have kids coming in to shop. We shopped there anyway -- if you need skunk perfume, you just have to shop where they sell it!"

Pieces of April: Finally on this Memorial Day weekend, whenever you're having a bad day, you might want to remember this recent Facebook post from KTVI-TV's April Simpson:

"I have had three major surgeries in the past three years. They include brain surgery to remove a large tumor. They were not able to remove it all. Lost sight in my left eye. Two rounds of radiation after the first round didn't hit the correct spot. Short-term memory loss Lost the sense of smell on my left side. Equilibrium is off. Gained 45 pounds from steroids. Had both of my hips replaced.

"After all that, all I can say is Thank you, God. I'm still doing what I love. I work hard every day even in pain, but I'm grateful. I'm happy. Thank y'all for sticking with me. It's not over, but I'm more blessed now than ever."

Today's trivia

What famous conductor was responsible for the term "radical chic"?

Answer to Thursday's trivia: The man who backed up Olivia Newton-John with that distinctive bass harmony on "Let Me Be There," et al., was English musician Mike Sammes. He also provided the whistling on the 1967 novelty "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" by the fictitious "Whistling Jack Smith" -- and the Mike Sammes Singers provided the backup "oompah, oompah, stick it up your jumper" for the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus."

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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