“Call the Sheriff” – My Time in Forest City

NOTICE: I have changed the date of these blogs to Monday and Thursday and not Sunday/Wednesday. These days give me a better chance to edit my work. 

I thought I heard those words. Maybe not. More about that near the end. But it all starts with me riding my bike to Forest City almost daily in good weather. I believe it was from about age 11-13 that I did this. I have tons of stories that I remember from riding my bike to town. So I will call this one Part One and there may be more coming later in my ramblings in 2017.

Nothing to Do in the Country

It was five miles from my house to Forest City. I lived in the country and my siblings were older and had either left the house for good or were in high school and were running around with their friends. What am I going to do all day? I got the idea I would ride my bike to town. We would play ALL day (who does that anymore?) and then ride my bike home before dark.

Is it Too Dark?

I remember vividly my mom telling me not to ride home if it got too dark. Light bulb goes off in my head to play the system. I would wait until almost dark and call my mom and ask her if I should head home. Almost invariably she would tell me no that she would come in and get me. We would put the bike in the trunk of the Oldsmobile and go home. I thought I was pulling something over on her but now looking back I know better. She didn’t mind.

I would get to town about 10AM and stay until 7-8PM. We would play baseball, baskeball, football, go to the Forest City ditch and back to baseball and repeat. It never got old and we were never malicious in things we did. Well, I guess that is open to interpretation. We did a few ornery things that are remembered. But we weren’t criminals.

Penny or Dime?

Everytime I rode to town my parents gave me two dollars to use. That was plenty. Afterall, the soda machine took dimes as Pepsi was 10 cents per bottle and a candy bar was the same price. I could have 10 sodas and 10 candy bars in one day (Pepsi and a Snickers)…. and frequently I did. From time to time I accepted an invitation to eat lunch with someone in Forest City but I didn’t often as I was in town ALL DAY long for many days a week for every summer month.

I am not sure if we were low on dimes or not but we (whatever kid was with me) decided that we could file a penny down to fit the size of a dime. But how? Just up Main Street on the left as you head to Manito (about across from the phone booth) Frank Woiwode owned a shop that was locked but had all kinds of saws and stuff. One of my brother Lyle’s best fdimeorpennyriends was Terry Woiwode and we secured a key from him to work on our craft. We took ten pennies and ground them down to dime size. Then we went to the outdoor machine at Bud and Jerry’s Grocery Store and put one in. Out came the penny back in the return slot, no luck. We tried them one-by-one and lo and behold ONE of the ten worked and we got a soda. It was the only of the ten that worked!

The next day, I rode to town and we went in to the grocery store and there, on the side of the cash register, was our penny. We concocted a plan to distract them near the back so we could switch that penny with a bad one and use it again. We did this about three times and decided to quit and not press our luck. Bud and Jerry’s was our favorite and only hangout and we didn’t want to mess that up.

NOTE: I hope the statute of limitations has run out on that Federal Offense!

Bud and Jerry’s

budandjerrysSince I have mentioned the grocery store in Forest City, I am going to expand on it a bit. They were nice to us kids but never to the point to make us feel warm and fuzzy. I think they lived in Matanza Beach or Quiver Beach while running the store. One night, after dark and after their closing time, we were roaming around the town and came to their front door. For some reason I walked by and turned the door handle and it came wide open. I know what you are thinking…. the store is ours. We walked just inside and yelled to see if they were there and no answer. We were excited but knew (yes we had a conscience) this was wrong. We left and went down the street to another kids house to “prove” we could get into the store. We went back to the grocery and went in. Then we quickly went out and latched the door which caused it to lock. We never told the owners as we thought it not best to let them know we tried. We took nothing from it but an experience.

Baseball Arguments

When a bunch of kids play baseball all day things don’t always go smoothly. At this point I will reveal some of the kids that I played with in Forest City. Some of them may be in the other stories and some not. In a days time it was Bob Skaggs, Jerry Wills, Denny Fletcher, John Limback, Ed Embree, Stan Embree, Jim Petty and Mike Kolvis.

markthespotOne particular game stand out. We were playing on the Junior High school diamond most of the time (using good equipment as they story comes in a bit) when there was a play on the base paths that involved Jim Petty and Mike Kolvis. They burst out with plenty of loud obscenities and innuendoes that the rest of us playing found humorous. Then the next thing stunned us. Mike tells Jim to “kiss my ass” and Petty retorts with “mark the spot.” Without hesitation Kolvis whips down his pants and points to his butt cheeks. We, including Jim Petty, just laugh and smile at the discussion and go back to playing baseball.

I have more baseball stories than will be in Part 2 of this topic.

Turning on the Christmas Lights

It was a hot day. Probably it was June and Jerry Wills and I were sitting on the steps of the Town Hall. It was located where the Firehouse is now located in Forest City. You could sit on the steps and see in three directions really well. This particular day we were likely talking about  a myriad of things that we normally talked about. I was finishing a Pepsi and Snickers sitting there looking at the lines running across the street to the town hall. Forest City kept Christmas lights up all year long. I studied the line coming across to a box located on the outside wall. I actually did it twice. Carefully I could tell the Christmas lights could be turned on by flipping that switch. I told Jerry I had it figured out and he should watch me turn on the lights. I reached up and proudly pulled the switch and no Christmas lights came on. Instead it was the switch for the Fire Siren that alerted the town there was a fire and help was needed at the firehouse. I quickly shut it off. Jerry and I looked at each other for a millisecond and RAN. We just ran. Jerry told me the next day his sister mentioned she heard the fire siren and did he know where the fire was.

The Equipment

The Forest City Junior High school used a closed chute as their emergency exit from the upstirs in case of a fire. Those of us around all the time found we could shinny up them and come to a door at the top. Sometimes it had a bar that kept it from being opened from our side. Well there was two of them and the west side always was left with no bar and we found we could push it open. So what we did was we would walk all the way around the school to see if there were any cars around. If no cars, we would go up the west fire escape, push the door open and we were in charge of the school. Let me tell you now that we NEVER damaged anything or vandalized a piece of the Junior High. BUT what we did do (about 25-30 times) was go to the equipment closet and use all the baseball stuff everyday for our baseball games.

sheriffbadgeThat was fine and dandy until one day, one of the guys and I checked out no cars and took the equipment back and was heading to the fire escape when we heard a noise. A person. We slid down the escape and for some unknown reason just stood up the hill about 50 feet away. The library door opens and the JH principal wiggles his index finger to come to him. We went inside and he was in his office and I could have sworn I heard him say “call the sheriff.” But I guess he didn’t as he simply asked us if we had just been in the building. We nodded our head affirmatively. He asked us what we were doing and we told him about using the equipment. He informed us nicely that he had seen evidence of someone in the building but never saw any vandalism or anything missing. He then said we should leave and never do that again. We left and NEVER, EVER attempted that again.


I would bet you didn’t know that Forest City had a mafia. Well they weren’t called the mafia they were the DTG. That’s for another time!


Previous Blogs

January 11th – Kilbourne Condom

January 8th – I’m Still Paying For It

January 4th – My First School Basketball Team

January 1st – The History of Me- My Birthday

“I’m Still Paying For It”

Before I begin I have had some people think I should rename the blog to things like Tom’s Old Thoughts, Tom’s Recollections, An Old Man’s Ramblings and a few others. I do agree the original title, “The History of Me”, is rather boring. So I ask you to give me your thoughts on the naming of this series. Add your own or use one of the other ones. Just leave a comment at the end of the thread. Thanks. 


“I’m Still Paying For It”


I remember this very vividly. It involves riding the bus. I enjoyed riding the bus because you can learn a lot by doing that. It’s not only good things but it is learning and I was always told I needed to learn something everyday. So here I am in the 4th grade riding the bus to and from school for about 35 minutes each way. There was no assigned seats but it happened that the older kids were in the back and the younger ones were in the front. Leonard Graff was my bus driver.

The Salute

Every school day at approximately 7:25 AM the bus drove up the hill to my house and stopped for me and then down the other lane we had which was always in bad shape with holes and ruts. Some of the kids like that and pretended to bounce around the bus. But I digressed a bit. Every day, yes every day when I got on the bus there was a huge (seemed like it at the time) high school kid sitting in the back seat on the right side and I would bound up the steps and look right at him. He would proceed to raise his left hand and give me the middle finger. I mean that was a daily thing.

One evening I asked another kid on the bus if he would pay attention tomorrow as I got on the bus at the big kid because I wasn’t going to look at him. Sure enough I remembered and sprung up the steps without looking and went to my seat. I asked the kid behind me, “well did he give me the finger?” He looked at me with a pale face and stated, “no, he saw me looking at him and he flipped me off and not you.” We learn at that moment that he gave the salute to anyone that looked at him. I, from that day on, attempted to not look at him. Afterall, that is what he wanted.

Daily Routine

Everyday I sat in the fourth row on the left side of the bus. Almost without fail. I wanted that seat. Why? Well there was a girl in the third row which was in front of me and I wanted to be close. Close so I could aggravate her, tease her and talk to her. She must not have minded too much as she sat there everyday. I was in the 4th grade and she was in the 3rd grade. Almost daily I teased her, pulled her hair and grabbed her books. But one day something happened.

I was teasing her which involved being a brat and grabbing her books, pulling her hair and all the stuff I normally did on the bus. All was the same. Until, I went to my class and about 20 minutes into the day the teacher across the hall (her teacher) came and I talked to my teacher. As her teacher headed out she asked me to follow her into the hall. The teacher told me one of her students said I stole 50 cents from her book. I told her I didn’t take any money and she asked to see my pockets. They were empty. She told me I needed to give the money back if I had it. I didn’t. I mentioned maybe it was still on the bus somewhere and she told me at recess I had permission to look on the bus.

The Plan

Just as it became time for recess to begin, Doug Graff asked me what was going on. I told him and said that I never took it. He said he had fifty cents he could give to me (what is the interest on that money after 50 or more years?) and we concocted the story that I would FIND the money on the bus. Which is what I did. The money was accepted and all is well on the Earth. But the story doesn’t end there.

The Lifelong Debt

I believe the girl lost it or never had it but she claims differently. You see this is her picture…..

and I married her.





Linda Meeker






To this day she thinks I took her money. I didn’t. I just call her irresponsible to lose 50 cents and blame it on me. But whoa have I ever paid her back for that money. I am still paying.

I guess she didn’t mind marrying a thief!

Later in Life

A sidenote: When we were teaching school we both told a similar story to girls who came to us and complained that some boy was bothering them. We told the story of how some boy was bothering, picked on and aggravate a girl and he MARRIED HER!


thatsgrossTheir response ewwwww!










Previous Posts

January 1 – My Birthday

January 4- My First School Basketball Team

“My First School Basketball Team”

Before I begin I’ve had some people think I should rename the blog to things like Tom’s Old Thoughts, Tom’s Recollections, An Old Man’s Ramblings and a few others. I do agree the original title, “The History of Me”, is rather boring. So I ask you to give me your thoughts on the naming of this series. Add your own or use one of the other ones. Just leave a comment at the end of the thread. Thanks.

Sixth Grade Basketball

I remember it. Almost everyone went out for basketball in the 6th grade. I also remember it because I gained a life lesson in the very first game that I played in. More about that later. I loved sports and this was a chance to get it going. The 6th grade season was coached by our principal Lanny Rudd. He was a fair guy that loved working with kids. It was time to practice and practice for the upcoming season. We only got about 2 or 3 days a week for practice as we yielded to the “lightweights” and “heavyweights”. I am also going to save commenting on that until a later time.


In case you can’t read the clipping from left to right

Front row- Lawrence Graff, Kevin Reynolds, Bobby Wills, Tom Knuppel, Steve Wilson, Bob Skaggs

Back row- Coach Lanny Rudd, Calvin Willard, Dennis Woodley, Dale Meeker, Larry Kennedy, Rickie Picken and manager John Eubanks

Let the Games Begin!

Finally we had our first game. I was a starter on the team and was doing very well. Now here is the life lesson. During a timeout in the 3rd quarter of my first game, I whispered to one of the other players that was close to the scorer’s table this, “check and see how many points I have.”

Things stopped right there! Coach Rudd asked me what I had said. Sheepishly, I told him. Calmly, as he always did, he looked at me and said something like…. we don’t care how many points you have, this is a team and we only want to know how the team is doing. Gulp. I was frozen and then shook my head.

program6thgradeLesson Taught, Lesson Learned

It was a lesson I always kept. I don’t remember asking how many points I had during or after the game EVER again. The reason I didn’t ask after that is I understood the lesson and my mom ALWAYS told me how I played, if it was good or if it was bad and she shared what she had for free throw percentage and shooting percentage. She told me if I could do better. I had one technical in my basketball career (8th grade) and she let me have it. That discussion will come in another story.


Now back to our 6th grade season. We didn’t play a ton of games but we were good. In fact, we won all our games except for the last game which was in the Woodrow Wilson tournament. Look at this program carefully as it lists all the players like usual except they also go a bit further and show our height and weight. Methinks that is not socially acceptable today.

plhilltourneyWoodrow Wilson Tournament

The tournament started on Saturday March 2, 1963. Here is the schedule for it:


In the first game, according to the Pekin Times we defeated Bellevue 34-19 as I had 14 points and Dale Meeker chipped in 8 points. The second game we beat top seeded (who seeds a 6th grade tourney?) Pleasant Hill 26-21 and Dale and I had 8 points eachto lead the way.

Then in the semi finals we beat Robein 31-26 and I had 12 points. The championship game was ugly for us as Canton whalloped Forman 41-22. I didn’t realize til I looked at the article and box score I had 4 points and must have choked big time. I did get selected to the All-Touney Team.

This is what I received for the selection.

Hope you enjoy some part of my stroll down memory lane. I will be adding stories on Sundays and Wednesdays and they will not be in any particular order.

Feel free to share with someone who might have remembered these thinngs or may have been part of it. 

  • NEXT BLOG: Sunday, January 8th – “I’m Still Paying For It”

Other Blog Posts in this series:

The History of Me – Today is my Birthday



Yes, today is my birthday. January 1st has always been special for me all the way back to the youth days. My parents made it a big deal telling me that everyone in the world is celebrating my birthday. We started on December 31st as that was my dads birthday. So we celebrated that until midnight and then it was for me. They always told me the ball dropping in NYC was to let me know and the world it was Tom Knuppel’s birthday. I bought that until I was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old. But I told that story to my grandchildren to make them think the same thing. It didn’t work.






Let’s do some history diving.

I was a surprise baby by all accounts as my brothers and sister were all born 2 years apart….. until it came to me and it was a five year span. That is a sign, a clue that I wasn’t really a planned child. My parents didn’t know if they were having a boy or a girl. They already had four boys (Richard, William, John and Lyle) and one daughter (Elizabeth Jane). What they did want that they admitted to me much later was to be born BEFORE January 1st in order to get the tax break in 1950 instead of waiting an entire year in 1951. Also, I was told that they promised my sister, Jane, I would be a girl. That didn’t work out. I was born in Peoria, Il at approximately 10:30 AM. That seems to be late but I was rewarded as the FIRST BABY born in Mason County in 1951, even though I was born at Proctor in Peoria. I won all the prizes. Things like diapers and powder and other things were given to me since I was a BORN WINNER! I guess things had no where to go from there except downhill. 🙂

What did I win for my family? Here are the prizes from the news clipping.





The one on here I love….Hurley Funeral Home transportation to and from the hospital (wait, I was already there) or $3 in cash. 






My mother and I were in the hospital for 10 days before they allowed her to go home. There wasn’t any problem it was just standard procedure to do that. I joke that she kept asking to stay another day so she could avoid the five children at home. My mom showed me, later in life, the copy of the hospital stay and for 10 days in 1951 was about $60.53! (I have the receipt) Oh wouldn’t that be nice today?

Jane was allowed to name me, at least to a certain degree, to help hide her disappointment that I was a boy. Never knew for sure how I became Thomas Lee. I was told that my mom never stayed home with me and if there was somewhere to go, she took me. Things like crowded high school gyms in the winter and loud, noisey stock car races in the summer. Yes, my dad had a stock car that he owned and operated on. But mom wasn’t about to allow him to drive it. After all, he has six kids at home and he had no business getting in any stock car wrecks.

My first recollection was about at the age of 5. A couple of things hit me. One is we had a big farmhouse and all the bedrooms were upstairs where the one and only bathroom was located. I shared a room with John and Lyle and it was the first room at the top of the stair to the right. The room was not big enough for three beds but could handle two beds and a baby bed. I slept in the bed until I was 8 years old and we moved to another house.

Another was my first trip (that I remembered) to Florida. Dad was already in Daytona Beach and mom and I stayed at a motel in Springfield that was owned by Lyle and Marge Drake. They were good friends of my parents. We got up the next morning and rode in a car with them all the way to Florida with me in the back seat playing quiet games. I never asked my self where the other kids were or why dad was already there. That answer will come later.

That’s all for now. I hope you join me in my adventure.



Thanks for reading about me. I will be posted articles from time to time in 2017. They won’t be in any particular order but rather stories that I remember and will share. I am currently raidng the scrapbook my mom diligently kept from my sports days from 6th grade through high school. If you know anybody that can transfer old newspaper clippings into a modern format, please let me know. Lastly, feel free to leave any comments about my stories. 




“It’s Not Fair” is Our Comfort Blanket


“It’s not fair.”

It is the phrase that has become society’s personal crutch. Three simple words that hinder people from taking ownership and responsibility for their actions. The sentence used as justification for us to fall apart. Often, we examine our experiences and instantly resort to pointing out what’s “unfair.”

To a certain degree, “It’s not fair” is our comfort blanket.

Yes, in many situations, things are unfortunate and completely out of our control. Circumstances arise and life throws some pretty hard curve balls. However, do you know what is in our control? The way we approach our adversity.

Stop Wallowing

We need to stop wallowing in sorrow and making excuses. You lost your job? Does that mean you should have a pity party for yourself? No. Work on your resume and start hunting for a new one. You did not get accepted into a program. Should you give up on your dream of being in the field? No. Start exploring alternative ideas and mapping out potential paths.

If you want something, fight for it. Do not become paralyzed by fear or rejection. Success comes through repeated mistakes. What is the worst that could happen? You get denied? Well at least you tried it. Sure, it might take 10 attempts, maybe 100, but if it’s your life dream: go for it! Keep striving for it until you see results.

Instead of focusing on the problems, start discovering solutions. Every new day is an opportunity to transform our lives. Heartaches and disappointment should not control us. Personal pain should not break our spirits.

Avoid becoming lost in comparing journeys with the people around you. Instead of constantly over-analyzing personal flaws, embrace them. Instead of taking in the disappointment, take in the memories. Just because things did not work in your favor now does not mean it will never happen.

Look for Opportunities

It’s about having optimism and being content — understanding that the timing you have planned might just not be what is right for you at this time. Maybe grad school is not happening right now, because an even greater is opportunity is coming along.

Actions always have consequences, but stop allowing them dictate your life. Sure, there will be times where you wonder “why?” There will be times where you put in so much effort, but there is no return. However, be comforted in knowing that is natural.

Someday when you achieve your dream, the satisfaction of knowing you fought for it will be invaluable.

We evolve every single day. Whether or not you realize it, you’re probably not the same type of person you were five years ago. Not even five months ago. Stop beating yourself up for regrets you may have about the past. Supposed “mistakes” often open doors of opportunity. Life isn’t fair. It is a balancing act of highs and lows. Ironically, that is what makes it beautiful. The challenges we face allow us to appreciate our successes. Rough times make great ones even greater.

It is OK to acknowledge something is not fair, but avoid resting in that state of mind. Challenges present the deepest learning experiences and sometimes, the most cherished memories. We might not know what lies ahead, but at least we have the power to choose what we leave behind.

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