food truck

From a city festival to a college campus to your local gas station, food trucks are filling the parking lots and parks. Typical menus include foods such as hot dogs, tacos, pizza, ice cream, hamburgers, French fries, sandwiches, donuts, milkshakes, coffee, burritos, and tortillas. Some, like ice cream trucks, focus upon a particular food. Others, like Korean food trucks, feature cuisine of that nationality.

When did this all begin? According to, historians trace mobile dining in America back to 1691 when New York began regulating street vendors selling food from push carts. These vendors sold meat pies, fruits, and sandwiches to garment workers, construction crews, and delivery boys at lunch time.

By the 1850’s passengers on cross country trains could purchase food in dining cars. These full service, sit-down restaurants featured tables covered with white tablecloths and set with china, silverware, and glassware for a fine dining experience.

In 1866, the Chuck wagon was invented by Charles Goodnight. Chuck wagons accompanied cowboys on their cattle drives across the Great Plains and served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. According to “From Chuck Wagons to Pushcarts—The History of the Food Truck” at, “The wagons themselves were designed specifically for cooking, with separate areas for pot storage, washing up and food preparation. This specialization and the ability to actually prepare and cook food make the chuck wagon the most direct ancestor of our modern food truck.”

Today’s food trucks often feature bright colored exteriors with the name of the food truck prominently displayed. Others are covered with artistic designs or images. The truck itself is an advertising instrument to generate present and future sales.

Look for food trucks at Taste of Chicago, at pop-up events, at county fairs, at city-sponsored festivals, anywhere a hungry crowd might gather.

If you see a food truck at an event, buy something. Think of this as an adventure into a new area of the food service industry.

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about food trucks, go to Food Trucks Documentary—Food on Four Wheels–YouTube at


kid on bike

In May of 2017 each of the 650 low-income students at Pepperidge Elementary in North Charleston, South Carolina received a new bike, helmet, and bike lock thanks to the work of Katie Blomquist, a first-grade teacher.

In an interview with national media, she explained how the idea developed: “Over the years, after talking with students, I have come to the realization many have never ridden a bike nor do they have the means to own a bike, especially one that is new,” said Katie. “I soon began to envision how each student’s quality of life could improve if they had more freedom to ride around their neighborhoods.”

Last September, Blomquist started a campaign on GoFundMe entitled “Every Kid Deserves A Bike!” In her GoFundMe campaign, she wrote the following: “I see directly the struggles and the difficult hands in life some children are dealt. Many do not have the chance to visit places outside their immediate community or have a variety of experiences over weekends and the summer; rather, many children solely play on their own street with neighborhood kids or strictly watch television.” The campaign had a goal of $65,000. After several months, it had raised $80,000.

In May of 2017, the children received their bicycles, custom-made by Radio Flyer. “Let’s go places!” was emblazoned on each frame.

“This isn’t a gift from me. This is a gift not only from your local community but our whole country,” said Blomquist before she revealed the bikes, according to Post and Courier. “One day when you’re a grown-up and you’re looking back on this day, I want you to really think about that and think about the joy and happiness these strangers gave to you, and I hope that you in turn one day find a way to give back some sort of happiness and joy to other people because of this day.”

—By Karen Centowski

To watch a video about the GoFundMe campaign, go to Teacher Launches a GoFundMe campaign for her students—YouTube at


In May of 2017, a 146-year-old American institution, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, billed as the Greatest Show on Earth, closed forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, cited declining ticket sales. “This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.” the statement said.

Although an estimated 10 million people went to a Ringling circus each year, the circus was not without controversy. PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, had called for the removal of the elephants. Saying that forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary, activists targeted Ringling. This led to the removal of the elephants, which were among the most popular features of the shows.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus had its origin in P.T. Barnum’s American Museum located in New York City in 1841. It featured exhibits, animals in a zoo-like setting, and freak shows. The museum burned down in 1865. Barnum tried to re-establish the Museum at another location in New York City, but it also burned down.

Meanwhile, Dan Castello and William Cameron Coup had created a circus in Delavan, Wisconsin. They convinced P.T. Barnum to come out of retirement and to lend his name, know-how, and financial backing to their circus. The combined show was named “P.T. Barnum’s Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome.” As described by Barnum, Castello and Coup “had a show that was truly immense, and combined all the elements of museum, menagerie, variety performance, concert hall, and circus.” Barnum considered it to potentially be “the Greatest Show on Earth.”

In the 1860’s, James Anthony Bailey and James E. Cooper had created the Cooper and Bailey Circus. This circus became the chief competitor to Barnum’s circus. The two merged and became the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

In 1884, five of the seven Ringling brothers of Baraboo, Wisconsin started a small circus. Their circus grew rapidly, and soon they were competing with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. When P.T. Barnum died in 1906, the circus was sold to the Ringling Brothers.

In its heyday, the circus moved from town to town by railroad train. Each train was a mile long with roughly sixty cars. Tents, workers, performers, props, and animals all arrived on the circus train. There was even a traveling school for performers’ children.

The circus suffered during the Depression in the 1930’s, but it managed to stay in business. According to, “Special dispensation was given to the circus by President Roosevelt to use the rails to operate in 1942 in spite of travel restrictions imposed as a result of World War II.”

In 1956, circus officials announced that the circus would no longer perform under their own portable “big top” tents. Instead, the circus would use permanent venues, such as sports stadiums and arenas that had seating already in place.

Through the years, acts were updated. The 2016 show contained motorcycle daredevils as well as the traditional trapeze artists and animal acts. The program exuded glitz and energy.

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video of the circus, go to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus—With Elephants YouTube.



If you are in the market for a new car, you will be making many decisions. What brand will you buy? Do you want a sedan or a SUV? Where will you buy the car? How much are you willing to spend? How will you pay for your new car?

One of your most important decisions is choosing the color of the new car. When Henry Ford produced the Model T Ford, he said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Those days are long gone. Now there are countless shades of reds, blues, greens, tans, taupes, whites, off-whites, charcoals, grays, blacks, gold, and silver.

According to Forbes, the most popular car color in North America last year was white, followed by black, gray, and silver. There are several different theories which attempt to explain our choices in color. One theory is that the popularity of silver is due to the current fascination with technology. For example, the exteriors and keyboards of many laptop computers are silver. Stainless steel is the popular choice for kitchen appliances including refrigerators, sinks, and stoves.

In an article called “A Brief History of Car Colors. . . and Why Are We So Boring Now?” the author explains, “As it turns out, during the recent recession, consumers were a bit shy of flashy things and tended to play it safe when and if they took the big step of buying a new car, and that trend has persisted over the years.”

Kelley Blue Book rated the top three overall colors for all vehicle categories. The results were silver at 23%, white at 15%, and black at 12%. The most popular colors for SUV/Minivans/Light Trucks were white at 19.3%, silver at 18%, and black at 12.4%.

The Kelley Blue Book article entitled “Best Car Color to Buy, The Monetary Value of Car Color” at points out that the color of the vehicle plays a role in its resale value. A car in a popular color now will probably make your vehicle more appealing to a buyer five years from now. Less popular colors depreciate the value of your vehicle. The article recommends sticking to neutral colors such as silver, white, black, and gray.

— By Karen Centowski


Sears Honor Bilt

Almost a hundred years ago, several geological surveys commissioned by Standard Oil revealed a seven-foot tall seam of coal in the ground at Schoper, Illinois, located about eight miles from Carlinville. As an added bonus, this seam of coal was near the Chicago and Alton rail line which ran between the refineries in Wood River (near St. Louis) and Whiting, Indiana (near Chicago). Since coal was used to refine crude oil and turn it into gasoline, Standard Oil moved full speed ahead to purchase a 500-acre farm in Schoper and sunk a 300-feet deep coal mine.

To provide housing for the mineworkers, Standard Oil placed a $1 million order for 192 Honor-Bilt houses from Sears Roebuck and Company. This was the largest order ever placed in the history of the Sears “kit” homes. One hundred and fifty-six homes were built in Carlinville. Twelve were built in Schoper. Twenty-four were built in Wood River.

The twelve houses in Schoper were built for the supervisors of the mine. Boarding houses and dorms were also built for the miners.

The houses in Carlinville were built in a twelve-block area and came to be known as the Standard Addition. Pictures of the Standard Addition homes, some of which were not completely finished, appeared in the 1919 and 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The completed homes appeared in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

By the mid-1920s, the price of coal had dropped. According to, “Standard Oil could now buy their coal cheaper from mines in Kentucky (which did not have unions) than they could mine it in Macoupin County. In July 1925, a small column on the bottom page of the Macoupin County Enquirer sadly announced the mine was closed for good.”

What happened to the houses? Nine of the Sears homes in Schoper were taken apart, loaded onto boxcars, and sent to new locations. Two of the Sears homes were moved to sites just outside of Standard Addition. One hundred and fifty-two of the Sears homes in Carlinville still stand today.

To see a video about the Sears homes in Carlinville, go to Illinois Adventure # 1206 “Carlinville” – You Tube at href=”

To see a video about the Magnolia, the most expensive model, go to The Modern Sears House: The Magnolia at