Tom Kacich | Fake-news quiz, Champaign County edition

Tom Kacich | Fake-news quiz, Champaign County edition

Questions for our resident Townie? Click here and he'll chase down your answer

Is truth really stranger than fiction? In Champaign County, absolutely.

In honor of April Fools Day, try to pick out the fake news:

1. Before there was a Champaign and Urbana, there was Lancaster, Ill., in Champaign County. True or false?

TRUE. According to Champaign County's first historian, Judge J.O. Cunningham, an early settler named Noah Bixler filed a plat in Vermilion County (before Champaign County had been formed) for the town of Lancaster, which would have been adjacent to the Big Grove area northeast of Urbana. But a year later, when Champaign County was formed, Urbana was named the county seat. Lancaster never came about.

2. The base tuition for an Illinois resident attending the University of Illinois 50 years ago (the 1968-69 school year) was $170. True or false?

TRUE. Base in-state undergraduate tuition to the UI is now $12,036 a year. According to an inflation calculator, $170 in 1969 equals about $1,175 today.

3. At one time, Champaign had the following names for streets in the area southeast of downtown Champaign: First South Street, Second South Street and Third South Street. True or false?

TRUE. It proved to be too confusing for the post office, former Mayor E.S. Swigart told The News-Gazette. The streets, which were renamed around 1916, are now known as Chester, Logan and Marshall streets.

4. University of Illinois football coach Bob Zuppke once rode a dirigible to football practice. True or false?

TRUE. On Sept. 21, 1929, Zuppke and UI athletic director George Huff flew in the Goodyear Vigilant dirigible from the Champaign Airport (then northwest of the city near what is now Mattis Avenue and Interstate 74) to Memorial Stadium.

"It was Zuppke's first venture in any sort of flying contraption," The News-Gazette reported. "A year or so ago, Zuppke's greatest dissipation in the way of vehicles was an electric car. He finally capitulated and purchased a well-known car of wide distribution. Perhaps this experiment encouraged Zup."

5. Champaign got its first police cars in 1929 and almost immediately they were blamed for an increase in crime. True or false?

TRUE. The city bought two Ford sedans for the police department in October 1929.

"The day was passed when a police officer should walk the streets," said Mayor George Franks, "and our decision to purchase new cars has come after two years of consideration and close observation of the success of motorized police forces."

Two weeks later, after a string of robberies, the squad cars were blamed for an increase in crime.

"It is too soon after the purchase of the squad cars to criticize them wholesale," said Chief A.U. Keller. "After giving them a trial, if we find that the amount of crimes continue, then we will be justified in condemning them."

6. Memorial Stadium once was used for more than football games. It once hosted an auto show. True or false?

TRUE. In March 1931, 72 cars from 14 local automobile dealers went on display in the great west hall of Memorial Stadium. Among the makes represented: Reo, Hupmobile, Marmon, Oakland, DeSoto, Dodge Brothers, LaSalle, Nash, Packard and Willys.

7. The first display of television in Champaign-Urbana came in 1928. True or false?

TRUE. "The television machine at the university is now making complete testings following the first successful test Thursday night when the picture of Cecelia Hansen was transmitted," The News-Gazette reported on April 6, 1928. "Thursday's testing revealed distinct facial features of Miss Hansen."

8. The first airline to serve Champaign-Urbana was Chicago-based Interstate Airlines Inc. True or false?

TRUE. Interstate Airlines began very indirect service between Champaign and Atlanta on Dec. 1, 1928. The fare was $65, and intermediate stops included Terre Haute and Evansville, Ind., and Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn. The air service ended Dec. 30.

9. A minor controversy developed when Champaign's park commissioners refused to allow West Side Park to be used to display a German cannon captured in World War I. True or false?

TRUE. The cannon had been offered in 1926 by American Legion Post 24.

"The park commissioners decided that they wanted to keep West Side Park open," said park board Chairman Charles Kiler, "and so did not grant a permanent place for the cannon in that park. However, we suggested that it be placed in Washington or East Side parks or any other public place in the city. We do not want West Side Park turned into a museum."

10. "Coeds are ruining the morals of men at the University of Illinois," a former student wrote in an Episcopal Church publication in 1926. True or false?

TRUE. "Drinking is now a minor vice for dating, a comprehensive diversion which includes dancing, drinking and petting," W.O. Cross of Peoria wrote in the Witness, an Episcopal Church magazine. "The traditional drinking of the old days, since the participation of women, has become bacchanalia."

11. Urbana once had its own stockyards. True or false?

TRUE. The small stockyards were on East Main Street, just south of the old Big Four Railroad yards. An estimated 4,000 people attended the grand opening in 1930. There were 18 pens capable of holding 20 railcars of livestock.

12. Six years before she disappeared over the Pacific, female aviator Amelia Earhart flew over Champaign-Urbana. True or false?

TRUE. Earhart flew an autogiro over the community in June 1931, but never landed. Earhart and a co-pilot identified as E. McVaght were flying from the Indianapolis 500 race to Bloomington.

13. The city of Urbana almost owned Carle Foundation Hospital. True or false?

TRUE. Twice in 1930, Urbana voters defeated referendums to increase taxes for a city-owned hospital. The last vote was 1,278 for and 2,314 against.

14. Jeanette Rankin, who in 1916 was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, predicted in Urbana that one day a woman would be elected president of the United States. True or false?

TRUE. Rankin told students at a University of Illinois sociology course in 1922, "A woman will be elected President of the United States before long." She also predicted, "New opportunities for women are continually presenting themselves, and when the women of the country take advantage of these opportunities and their right to representation in the legislative bodies of the state and nation, they will be able to bring about social reforms of immense benefit to themselves."

15. The late Chicago disk jockey, "Superjock" Larry Lujack, once was stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul. True or false?

TRUE. Lujack wrote in his 1975 autobiography, "Superjock," that he "got into a lot of vicious fights at Chanute." He wrote that "there wasn't anything to do in Rantoul; besides, it was too cold to go outside, so we just hung around the barracks and beat each other up."

Tom Kacich's column appears Sundays in The News-Gazette. He can be reached at

Topics (1):Special Report