Thursday, July 28, 2011


Saturday, the Bechely family will celebrate thirty-five years of ownership of the Iroquois Café. There’s going to be a great party in Iroquois, Illinois (population of just over 200 people). I wish I could go.

I first visited the Iroquois Café  in the summer of 1980. Since then, I've been to restaurants in at least 35-40 states. The Iroquois Café is my favorite.  

Joe and Pat Bechely bought the place in the 1970s. Several of their children worked for them. At some point, Joe and Pat sold the place to their son - John. John’s children work there with him now. Someday, one of them will probably own the place. She may pass it on to her children.

Generations of Bechelys have served generations of Iroquois County families, including mine. I spent one of my last “bonding” evenings with my dad at the Iroquois Café visiting with John, Joe and Pat. It’s a great memory.

I’ve taken my boys and they love the place. They proudly sport Iroquois Café t-shirts.

So, what makes it special?

To my big city raised friends, this will seem like I’m spinning a tale - but I’m not: some Iroquois County locals have keys to the Café. Each morning, before the employees arrive, customers make coffee and fire up the grill.
The food is amazing. Iroquois Café breakfasts are affordable, sizeable, and way beyond good. The lunch and dinner entrees are diverse and delicious. Nothing on the menu breaks the bank.
Service is always excellent. At times, I've wondered if I receive special treatment because I know the owner. That's not the case. I visited a few times recently and didn't see a Bechely – it still felt like I was being served by friends.
The Bechely family and the employees of the Iroquois Café are hard working and dedicated. In an age of chain restaurants and big box stores, hard work and dedication don’t keep a business going for thirty-five years. Treating people well does. The Bechelys treat people well.
Congratulations to the Bechely family! Best wishes for another thirty five years.
For my non-Iroquois County friends: The Iroquois Café, in Iroquois, Illinois, is fifteen minutes from Watseka and less than two hours from Chicago’s loop. It’s a short side trip from I-57 in
Illinois or I-65 in Indiana. Make the trip, it’s worth it.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Dang, I missed the Iroquois County Fair again. 

This year was, according to the Fair's website, the "forty-onth" (that's what it says) year of the Iroquois County Fair Queen Pageant. Check it out:

Read the rules - they're right there on the website.

The Pageant brings back memories for me - and not just of the Iroquois County Fair. Don't tell anybody this: Years ago, when I was in the Army, I entered the Hardin County (Kentucky) Fair's "Handsome Man Contest."

The Hardin County Fair Contest had rules. They were kind of like the Iroquois County Fair Queen Pageant's.  There was no talent required. We had to give a speech and sit for an interview. Finally, we had to swear we weren't married and that we didn't drink, smoke, cuss, nor sleep with women who did.

The girl who is now my wife was with me. When she heard me take that oath, she hollered out - "bullsh*t!!!!" The lead judge curtly told me: "Son, your girlfriend is either callin' you a liar or cuttin' you off. Either way, you're done here."

At first, I was sort of upset. When the contest was over though, I was pretty sure it was rigged because the finalists were all Southern Baptist seminarians.

The only thing that still gets me ticked about it is that when I got the boot I was already in my swimsuit and they made us wear hunting-camouflage speedos.

Plus, I could have used the scholarship money for my B.S. degree.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thoughts on the WCHS 1981 Thirty Year Reunion

“Life’s a journey” is a phrase so often used it has become cliché.  Regardless, it’s apt.

In 1981 we, a select group* of young people, began the adult portions of our journeys.  It seems, since then, there have been three types of travel. Some people have taken an interstate with a few delays. Others have had to go around obstacles on bumpy roads. Many have had to forge trails through wildernesses. Most of us have experienced stretches of all three.

Last weekend, for nearly half of our class, our journeys intersected: geographically where they started; philosophically much further down the road.  We had three days of easy travel.

Open arms and smiles abounded. Cliques faded. Old relationships were renewed. Old acquaintances became new friendships. Kindness was overflowing.

Over the weekend there was some reminiscing about our youth. However, there was more celebrating being together. I didn’t hear boasts of accomplishments. I heard discussions about classmates’ children and parents. 

I came away humbled by many of our classmates. As Dooley said, several of them have been burdened with crosses few of us could bear. Yet, they carry their burdens with inspiring strength and grace. I feel fortunate to have been in their presence. 

Many of us stayed up way too late for our age - not to party - just to be together.  I think we all realized that the only way to know where we’re going is to remember where we’ve been.  

I am very glad to have attended last weekend’s festivities. My only regret is not having more time to visit with more folks.  I am very proud of the people our classmates have become.

I picked a few of my favorite quotes about the weekend to share:

Jeni: “I was very nervous about going . . . . Once I walked in the door and was greeted by everyone I felt much better.”
Jon: “Most people have changed quite a bit. Some have not changed much at all. Both are good things.”
Jerry: “I think a lot of the results of visiting any of the others from our class helped me realize, we have much more in common now than anything we thought made us different back then.”

Rod: “Friday night I sat down and visited with a guy I didn’t hang around with in high school. He is just a really great guy; I am so glad I got that chance.”

For those who couldn’t attend. We missed you. We spoke highly of you and would like to see you in five years.

For me, personally, the reunion affirmed what I’ve long believed about Watseka (and folks from Watseka). There wasn’t any better place to be a kid.


*In December of 2009 I did the math, only one in 68 million people got to be in our class.