Monthly Archives: June 2014

WQAD-TV in Moline, Illinois, has hired a Rockford, Illinois, meteorologist to replace Terry Swails

swailsWQAD-TV in Moline, Illinois, has hired a Rockford, Illinois, meteorologist to replace the Quad-Cities’ most experienced meteorologist, Terry Swails.

Channel 8 did not renew Swails’ contract. In these days of big corporations owning most media outlets — and concerned more about the bottom line than their viewers, listeners or readers — it probably means Swails was earning too much money, and the new guy will work for a fraction of the Swails’ salary.

(Note: there are some corporations and independent owners, locally and nationally, who are doing media right because they care about their customers. But sadly I think they’re in the minority these days.)

Whether you are a fan of Terry Swails or not is not the point. I think it’s a shame to see anyone who is doing his or her job fired because of past poor corporate financial decisions or downright greed. I’ve been there.

I was “downsized” five times in 45 years of working, most recently in 2009 by Clear Channel, which many fellow, former employees call the “Evil Empire.” It’s not fair, and it’s not fun.

David Burke’s article:

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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


Restaurant offers throwback pricing

buffet-300x200The Iowa 80 Truckstop is one busy place. The world’s largest truck stop, located at the Walcott interchange of Interstate 80, serves 5,000 customers per day.

And many of those people visit its busy eatery, Iowa 80 Kitchen, which serves two million cups of coffee and 18 million eggs every year. The restaurant was especially full of customers on June 4 when it celebrated its 50th anniversary with throwback menu pricing from the year it opened.

“All of the managers got together, and we wanted to do something fun,” said Chris Hahn, a restaurant shift manager whose grandparents, Ruth and Bill Peel Sr., founded the business.

“We figured we’d do an appreciation event for the customers who have been with us for so long,” she said.

So on June 4 coffee at Iowa 80 Kitchen sold for a dime just like it had five decades earlier. Two eggs, hash browns, toast and bacon or pork sausage went for 95 cents. A cheeseburger and French fries were 55 cents. And half of a fried chicken, choice of potato, coleslaw and roll were $1.65.

Those prices surprised Hahn, who wasn’t yet around in 1964.

Customers showed up in big numbers, she said. “We had a line at the door from about 8:30 in the morning to 8:30 at night.”

Now one of the area’s largest restaurants, Iowa 80 Kitchen began, you might say, as a 23-seat snack bar at a bowling alley on Black Hawk Road in Rock Island.

The Peels and two of their four sons, Bill Jr. and Greg, operated it. (The other two sons, Tim and Terry, worked at Iowa 80 Kitchen in later years. Of the four brothers, all but Tim are now deceased.)

The late Bill Moon, who was working for Standard Oil, heard about the Peel family from a restaurant supply company and stopped by the snack bar during the summer of 1963.

He told them he was looking for someone to run a restaurant in a truck stop that Standard would be building north of Walcott along what then was a fledgling Interstate 80.

Moon then drove the family to the site of the future truck stop, Bill Peel Jr. related in The Perfect Spot, a book Iowa 80 Truckstop published 10 years ago to commemorate its 40th anniversary.

“But at that point in time, it was just a cornfield,” Peel recalled. Y40 was a gravel road and, as yet, there was no overpass.

“There was nothing here. He (Moon) told us, ‘I know it’s going to be hard to envision, but this is it.’”

Moon, a visionary, “did a pretty good sales job,” Peel noted, and convinced the family to operate the restaurant when the truck stop was built.

The first Iowa 80 restaurant was quite cozy. It had just 50 seats and a six-seat counter. There were no hand-carried menus back then. Meals were listed on a menu board with push-in letters and numbers. It could be read from anywhere in the room.

But since its 1964 debut, the place has expanded regularly. The first expansion came just a year after it opened and took it from 50 seats, not counting the counter, to 150 seats.

Today there are 300 seats and a horseshoe-shaped, 50-foot salad bar in a 5,693-square-foot facility that recently received a facelift.

While Iowa 80 Kitchen’s prices in 2014 are higher than they were in 1964, one thing hasn’t changed. The place is still a family operation with the third generation of Peels now in charge.

Bill Peel Jr.’s son, Chris Hahn’s cousin Jeff, operates the restaurant and shares ownership of it with his mother, Beverly.

As for that day with the throwback menu prices, Jeff Peel said, “It was a good day; I’d do it again.”

Copyright 2014 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Submitted as a column to The North Scott Press.

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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized


New Era production is always a pleasure

1781945_10202463301401652_516786276_nMy wife and I love live theater and attend performances around the area regularly. The amount of local talent never ceases to amaze us.

Something we always look forward to is the annual New Era Dinner Theater production at Ziegler Memorial Lutheran Church in the unincorporated village of New Era on New Era Road just west of the southern entrance to Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine County.

We missed the first show in 1994 but have attended every one since, accompanied in recent years by our friends the Harpers.

Multiple performances of each show take place in late May and early June. The home-cooked meal prior to each performance is delicious, and proceeds from ticket sales have always benefitted church needs and other charities.

On June 8, 2014, the fourth and final performance of this year’s show, “Dear World: A Musical Fable,” took place, and it was terrific.

An added treat was seeing director Bill Turner of Muscatine also act in the play.

I’m sure the cast and crew are looking forward to a little rest now. But I can’t until next year!

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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Memorable commencement speakers

I don’t remember the names of the commencement speakers or the speeches they delivered when I graduated from high school in 1967 or college in 1971.
They may have been important people who had important messages. But I just don’t recall. It’s been too long.

Seniors in three recent graduating classes, however, have heard speeches from people they may well remember in the future.

One group of graduates is from Haverford College in Haverford, Penn. They got an earful from former Princeton president William Bowen.

You may have read that Robert Birgeneau, the former chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, withdrew from speaking at Haverford’s commencement. That came after some Haverford students had said his presence would have constituted an endorsement of his handling of a 2011 “Occupy” protest, where riot police were called in.

Bowen, who was already scheduled to speak at Haverford, told the grads he defends students’ right to protest, but “a liberal arts college like Haverford should be focused on encouraging debate, not shutting it down. He added that it was wrong for a leader of the Haverford protest to call Birgeneau’s decision not to appear a small victory.

“It represents nothing of the kind,” Bowen said. “In keeping with the views of many others in higher education, I regard this outcome as a defeat, pure and simple, for Haverford — no victory for anyone who believes, as I think most of us do, in both openness to many points of view and mutual respect.”

He said more, but you get the idea.

Another memorable commencement speaker was Jill Abramson, who was recently fired as the New York Times’ executive editor after three years at the job.

“What’s next for me? I don’t know,” Abramson, who had worked at the Times for 17 years, told graduates at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. “So I’m in exactly the same boat as you are. I’m a little scared but also excited.”

Abramson advised “anyone who has been dumped” to “show what you are made of.”

Another memorable commencement speaker was actress Sandra Bullock, who made an unadvertised appearance at the graduation ceremonies of Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans.

She told the grads to stop worrying so much and find their joy.

“It’s what you’re going to remember in the end. It’s not the worry, it’s not the what-ifs. It’s the joy that stays with you.”

Copyright 2014 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This ran as a column in The North Scott Press.

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Posted by on June 8, 2014 in Uncategorized