Answer Man

Answer Man: SWIC gate saves time in an emergency

Q. Why is there a huge sliding gate in the fence at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville? It is never open. If all traffic must use the entrances at the Green Mount and Illinois 161 traffic lights, why have the gate?

— P.V., of Belleville

A. If you think about it, you unknowingly may have answered your own question. If all the other traffic is using the two public entrances, how can you help police, firefighters and ambulances respond more quickly in an emergency? You give them their own private entrance, of course.

“The simple answer is that the gate is for emergency purposes only,” SWIC spokesman Jim Haverstick told me.

“It can be opened by the Public Safety Department to let in emergency vehicles so they have a direct route to the buildings without having to go through the roundabout or the parking lots. The gate also can be opened to provide an additional exit in case of an emergency evacuation.”

Q. I worked at Deutch’s in 1969 and then spent a lot of years off and on at Dollus Brothers Shoe Shop. I seem to recall an S&H Green Stamps redemption store somewhere in Belleville. Where might it have been?

— Steve Skelton

A. I’m much more familiar with the short-lived Plaidland Redemption Center, with which I quickly developed a love/hate relationship.

Plaid Stamps were the reward my folks earned for shopping at the A&P Grocery on South Illinois, where the Regional Superintendent of Schools’ office now stands. So, for dutifully pasting in all those gummy little things, I was allowed to pick out one treasure from the company’s glitzy redemption catalog.

I had my heart set on my first chess set, so we drove out to the center at 4401 North Belt West, and I eagerly grabbed my prize. But after being stored just a few weeks in our humid basement, both sides of the cheap board warped so badly that pieces would slide one way or the other if they were moved from their starting positions. I quickly learned the important lesson that you usually get what you pay for — or not pay for, as the case might be.

As for S&H, the only store I can find in Belleville city directories was open from about 1969 to 1972 at 212 E. Main St. I’d be glad to hear from anyone who remembers other locations.

Happy memories: I noticed that my good friend Larry Betz, president of the Belleville Historical Society, posted a picture of that old Sears Farm/Auto Store at 500-508 E. Main St. Friday morning on his Facebook page.

“My grandpa bought a cultivator and my dad bought a flair wagon from Sears on East Main — both of which we still possess,” Paul Van Buren wrote me.

Betz invites anyone looking for old photos of Belleville to visit the society’s website at And don’t forget about the big open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 11, when Betz’s group will join with the St. Clair County Historical Society, the Gustave Koerner House Committee and the Belleville Labor & Industry Museum in a celebration of the area’s so-called Latin farmers at the groups’ Belleville museums.

Gladys, of Belleville, reminded me of the old Sears parts and service store at 27 Bellevue Plaza while fondly recalling the city’s summer sidewalk sales that would draw hordes of bargain hunters. (I remember a friend, who worked at a downtown store, complaining how he always would have to drag tons of stuff that wouldn’t sell down from the upstairs storage rooms for the event.) Don Kaiser, of New Athens, remembered yet another Sears store.

“I had to go to the East St. Louis Sears to get my ‘Roebucks,’ because the Belleville store did not carry ‘Huskies’” wrote Kaiser, who also recalled when neighbor Abe Small opened the High Street entrance to his popular downtown clothing store. “I could get Huskie khakis at Small’s, though.”

More Flack: A recent column on Belleville native baseball pro Max Flack had John Skidmore waxing nostalgic about his childhood neighbor in East St. Louis.

“We used to walk the alley two blocks to Longfellow Grade School,” wrote Skidmore, who lived at 1402 Ohio, which was a couple doors up the alley from Flack’s home on College. “We would always see him in the yard cutting grass, etc. He asked me and a buddy to pull something out of his garage one day and we did. I think he gave us a quarter.

“I decided to ask him for his autograph. He was so nice about it. He signed it and put underneath his name Chicago Cubs 1914-1922 and St. Louis Cardinals 1922-1925. He was always very humble, saying, “I wasn’t that good of a player, but I played 12 years.” Again thanks for such a good article. Reading it made me remember how great it was to be a kid.”

Today’s trivia

What role did Mary Young Pickersgill play in the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

Answer to Thursday’s trivia: It’s understandable that Nike might be a little skittish about having it widely known that its iconic “Just do it” slogan was inspired by the final words of a convicted murderer.

“That was not the version I heard when I arrived at Nike,” Liz Dolan, a former Nike marketing chief, told the New York Times in 2009.

But that’s exactly what happened. When Gary Gilmore was asked for his final words as he faced a Utah firing squad on Jan. 17, 1977, he reportedly said, “Let’s do it.” A decade later, Dan Wieden, co-founder of the Wieden+Kennedy ad agency, realized that tweaking the phrase might produce a memorable slogan for Nike.

“I liked the ‘do it’ part of it,” he said in “Art & Copy,” Doug Pray’s 2009 documentary about the origin of popular ads. “None of us really paid that much attention. We thought, ‘Yeah, that’d work.’ People started reading things into it much more than sport.”

As a result, Advertising Age in 1999 called it the second best ad slogan of the 20th century after it was launched in 1988. (DeBeers’ “Diamonds are forever” topped the list, which you can find by searching for “Top 10 Slogans.”)

Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat