County Watch—Pluto; GOC tower; golden flowers

By Jim Nowlan
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Ivan and Phyllis Donner, of Toulon, put me onto a heart-warming story from Streator, where their son Brian and daughter-in-law law Kim live.

Streator is home to the late Clyde Tombaugh, an aw-shucks guy who was a big-big deal in the world of astronomy, in large part because in 1930 he discovered the long-suspected but not hitherto seen sun-circling planet of Pluto.

In July Streator honored their famous scientist with a celebration that drew hundreds to a local park to see the unveiling of the 2016 Pluto Explored Forever stamp, along with a Pluto-inspired postmark created by local art teacher Monica Hladovcak.

As postmaster (or whatever they call the top dog now) of the Streator post office, Kim Donner was naturally in charge. She presided as mistress of ceremonies, introducing bigwigs from the postal service and elsewhere.

Postmaster Kim Donner (left) is pictured with her in-laws Ivan and Phyllis Donner of Toulon with a large display of the special Pluto stamp honoring the Streator native who discovered the planet.
Postmaster Kim Donner (left) is pictured with her in-laws Ivan and Phyllis Donner of Toulon with a large display of the special Pluto stamp honoring the Streator native who discovered the planet.


Kim sent me the remarks made by a nephew of scientist Clyde. Larry Tombaugh recalled, as an awe-struck child, peering through Clyde Tombaugh’s own, self-made telescope out in New Mexico, where Clyde Tombaugh did his research at the famed Lowell Observatory.

It was the largest privately-owned telescope in the world at the time and is now at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

I think the take-away for us is that Clyde Tombaugh was just a small-town boy who made big contributions to the whole world.


For example, Clyde worked with Werner von Braun in building early missiles that are in a direct line to those that today swirl around our globe and investigate the cosmos.

And he did so from humble beginnings, but with an inquiring mind and lots of hard work.
Ben Franklin said something like, “Genius is one per cent intelligence and 99 percent sweat.”
Thanks for putting me onto this, Ivan and Phyllis.

At the risk of beating a topic to a pulp, I have more info on the Elmira Ground Observer Corps.
Alert readers David Jackson, originally of Elmira and more recently of Peoria, and Eunice Daniels, of Kewanee, have provided photos of the tower itself. I don’t know which of the photos editor Lynne might use (I’m away) but one shows the outhouse adjacent to the tower, for use by the observers, which I found perfectly reminiscent of the times.

David stopped by the office. He told me his parents, Milan and Barbara, were deeply involved as observers. David even brought me a shadow box filled with pins his father earned as an observer.
David said the call letters for Elmira’s tower was: Alpha Metro One One Black, which would be used to identify the Elmira center when reporting the approximate altitude and type of plane being reported to the “filter center.”

Thanks much, David and Eunice.

I can report from my recent walks on trails and country roads that the blue and violet wildflowers have mostly receded in favor of golden and yellow varieties.

I still see a few of the delightful (aren’t all wildflowers so?) chicory (ragged sailors) along roadsides and some of what I want to call ironweed or blazing star, but which more informed friend Joe Campbell insists are bergamot. The violet, round flower tops, about one to two inches across, have delicate spikes, somewhat like cat whiskers, sprouting out in all directions.

But now to the fore have come a riot of yellow and golden flowers, at least so on my walk last week in Jubilee Park south of Princeville.

When I see a flower I don’t know, which is most of the time, I later consult my Audubon flower book, but even then I’m not always sure.

Anyway, at Jubilee, in areas specifically planted to wildflowers, I am sure I have seen yellow prairie cone flowers, black eyed Susan, prickly pear, sunflowers, march marigold and wood poppy.
I would describe them all to you, but I’m afraid I lack the word-smithing skill to do so, and I’m in Chicago away from my flower book.

Let’s leave it that the flowers brighten my mood and spark wonder at the infinite variety and splendor of nature.

By the way, I am prompted to note that on my walks I always wave at oncoming autos. First because I cannot always see who is behind the glare of a windshield, and I don’t want to offend a friend, and second as a way of saying thanks to the driver for giving me a bit of room as I walk the edge of the driver’s right-of-way.

Which reminds me of the time dear friend Phil Sharkey and I were driving back into Toulon from who knows where (we were probably late teens)—and along Main Street I waved from my car seat at a dog!
Phil has never let me forget that.

But it was a nice dog, well known around town.

At left:  Pictured is the watch tower in Elmira with Nellie Elliott on the steps.  She and members of her family were very active in the Sky Watch program.
At left: Pictured is the watch tower in Elmira with Nellie Elliott on the steps. She and members of her family were very active in the Sky Watch program.


At right:  Dave Jackson brought this page from a magazine into The News.    The article describes the watch program in Elmira as the only one in Illinois that was operating “around the clock.”  In the photo a representative of the Air Force is discussing plane silouettes with the volunteers.
At right: Dave Jackson brought this page from a magazine into The News. The article describes the watch program in Elmira as the only one in Illinois that was operating “around the clock.” In the photo a representative of the Air Force is discussing plane silouettes with the volunteers.

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