Champaign home remodeler finds quite the parking fine

 

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Odd questions? We'll answer 'em.

CHAMPAIGN — About six weeks ago, David Kristovich was trying to enlarge a closet in his more-than-century-old home in west Champaign when he came across an interesting, if not mundane, piece of local history.

"My dad was doing renovation in a closet in our house," said his daughter, Erin Kristovich, 27, who said the family believes their two-story home dates to the 1890s. The Kristoviches have lived there 20 years.

"He took off a board that was nailed and painted to a wall. A little piece of folded-up paper floats down, and he opened it up, and it's a parking ticket from 1941. It was placed in a way that it was extremely obvious nobody wanted it found," said Erin Kristovich. "Maybe a teenager trying to hide it?"

A self-described fan of police officers, she said her first inclination was to show it to someone at the police department.

"My dad is a little hesitant because he thought there might be a fine that had to be paid because it was an unpaid parking ticket," she said.

But then again, he might have been teasing her because that's what he does, she said, unsure exactly how to read him on the decades-old find.

Nonetheless, Erin Kristovich scanned a copy of the ticket and shared it with the police department recently.

Zane Ziegler, a retired patrol officer who works part time as an electronics technician for the department, really has more fun being the CPD historian.

"It was written to a license-plate number," said Ziegler, who worked for 28 years on Champaign streets.

The hidden ticket was written almost 77 years before David Kristovich found it, on June 11. It had been written June 14, 1941, and ordered the recipient to appear in court the next day at the police station.

"They had police magistrates in the City Building back then. Everything went before a magistrate. The fine was probably 50 cents," Ziegler said.

The scofflaw who hid the ticket had apparently parked where he or she should not have on Oak Street. There was no mention of where exactly on Oak.

The ticket was about 3 inches square, Ziegler said. The box marked "wrong parking" was checked and in handwriting said "no parking."

"I'm assuming it was a two-part ticket where you have carbon paper (in between the layers) and the officer turned the other part in. I'm just glad it was easy to identify who wrote it."

Ziegler immediately recognized the issuing officer as Al Rivers, the first African-American man to make a career of policing in Champaign, working for the department from 1935 to 1960.

"There were others who came and went, but he was the first black to retire as a sergeant," said Ziegler, who started in 1975. Although they never worked together, Ziegler met Rivers, who worked at a downtown Champaign bank after retiring from the police department.

The Kristovich family, especially Erin, was pleased to have another acquisition for their archaeological treasure trove. Their home on Wheaton Avenue was once part of a farmstead, she said.

"We have an entire collection of stuff we've found in the backyard and garage," she said.

Since her mother is a master naturalist, there has been plenty of digging in the yard over the years.

"Marbles, horseshoes, a cigar in the house in the rafters. We've found pottery. We have two porcelain cats, about the size of a thumb. One was completely undamaged, and the other is missing a leg. They were found buried in the backyard."

Her dad also found a receipt from 1939 for a heater during interior renovations.

They plan to hang onto their latest find for a while, especially after being assured that they would not be liable for any unpaid fines and interest.

They also like the idea of having something touched by a police officer who made his mark on the department and the city.

"It's kind of cool," she said, after learning of Rivers. "I'm a huge fan of police officers. They are my heroes."

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).