Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pension "Reform" Under Cover of a Major Holiday: Have They No Shame?

Pension Thieves: Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Governor Pat Quinn
The Illinois State Legislature's leaders have agreed on a pension "reform" bill that is set for a rush vote next week (December 2-6).

Under cover of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, these bozos aren't releasing details of their bill to the public, only to fellow legislators.

These jokers are so sleazy I feel dirty just writing about them.  This is the same underhanded thing they did during the Memorial Day weekend last summer.

Wait till the holiday when teachers are busy and then screw them.  I was on the phone calling legislators offices Black Friday morning, and what do you think I got?  Ringing phones!  But you know "Mr. Speaker" and "Governor Gadfly" were in touch with the legislators via cell phone.

Here are some of the details about the "reform" bill that are trickling out:

If you are younger than 45 years of age, you will be working longer.  The retirement age will be raised.

If you have one of those big District 211 salaries over $100,000, get set to see your potential pension lowered as the legislature will only figure your pension on what is believed to be $106,000.  You're paying for something you will not receive.  Surprised?  Don't be; there's more!

The cost of living adjustment (COLA) for saps like me will be reduced from the current 3% compounded annually to a formula based on how long you worked and tied to the rate of inflation.  My wife, who taught 7 1/2 years longer than I did will now get a bigger COLA even though my pension is higher and I paid more into TRS than she did.  Fair?  Nah, fairness has been buried!

Current workers will pay less to the Teacher's Retirement System (TRS), but will get less.  This is being done so that active teachers won't bitch.  But you active teachers should know that you are getting screwed too!  You will work longer for less pension benefits than your retired colleagues received, and you've already paid more than we did.

A 401(K) system is being established for those who want to opt out of the defined pension plan and establish their own retirement accounts.  No word who is going to match the employee contribution.  Matching is the key to a successful 401(K), and with the State of Illinois broke and most school districts teetering on the brink of financial crisis because of the state's failure to pay its state aid on time, the 401(K) option looks dead on arrival.

The State of Illinois will be legally required to make its pension payments on time.  This same crap was promised in 1998 when the last pension bill was passed, and look what happened!  Governor Rod Blagojevich and his crony Mike Madigan moved the 2005 $405 million TRS contribution into shoring up the state budget.

Then the Chicago Tribune reports on Friday that retired teachers get "free" health insurance and that a teacher retiring in 2012 "could expect a starting pension of $72,693."  THESE ARE BOLD-FACED LIES.  I paid $11,040 in health insurance premiums to the state for my wife and me in 2012.  And the average teacher pension in Illinois is more like $30,000, not $72,693.  The Chicago Tribune is a lying joke!  I've invited Trib Editorial Page Editor R. Bruce Dold to sit in on my journalism class.  He needs remediation!

But this is what we have been left with.  Not only are they ramming those common core standards down our throats, they are also saying that we make too much money both while teaching and in retirement.

The Illinois State Constitution guarantees that retirement benefits "cannot be diminished," but if this bill is passed, the teachers unions, who by the way were completely left out of the just completed negotiations AGAIN, will be forced to sue.  I'm 65 years old.  I'm counting on that 3% COLA.  I paid for my pension!  I can't wait for a lawsuit to make its way through the court system.

It's the State of Illinois that shirked its funding responsibility, and yet I am the one who will suffer if this unconstitutional bill is passed.

God, I'm pissed off!

What can we do?

We must stop the Illinois State Legislature from passing this bill.  Go to the We Are One Illinois web site and get connected to your state senator and state representative.  Call him or her on Monday morning when you get up or during your free period.  Follow up your call with an e-mail.  Stop these sneaky bastards from ruining your life.

This may be our last chance!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Heroes and Villains of Illinois Pension Reform

Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan
In the aftermath of the Illinois House's passing Speaker Mike Madigan's pension reform bill on May 2nd, it's time to look at the heroes and villains.

So let's have at it!

Villain:  Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D) Chicago.  Whoever said the boss system was dead in Illinois?  Eat your words if you did!  The man in the photo above, Mike Madigan, may have more power in Illinois than the former mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, had.  Madigan will never call a bill to the House floor unless he knows it will pass so I was bending over on Monday morning and holding my ankles when I heard his bill was coming up for a vote.

Madigan has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the two teachers' unions, and he voted in favor of most of the pension bills that are now in the process of being ash canned.  Early Retirement Option?  Madigan voted "yes."  Compounded Cost of Living Adjustment?  Yes, Madigan was on board for that one too.

Now, all of a sudden Madigan "gets religion" and decides to screw both active and retired teachers.  My pension will be virtually frozen unless the Illinois Supreme Court decides to uphold the state constitution.  I grew up in McHenry County.  I know all about trusting judges to do the right thing!

Rep. Don Moffitt
Hero: Representative Don Moffitt (R) Gilson.  I don't always agree with Don Moffitt on his votes, but he is a true bi-partisan statesman.  Moffitt voted "no" on every pension bill that came his way.

Don represents a district where teachers don't make a lot of money.  Heck, the top salary for a teacher in Knoxville, just down the road from Gilson and Galesburg, is $60,000--and that's with a master's degree, another 30 hours of graduate credit, and 35 years of teaching experience.

There are tons of retired teachers in Knox, Warren Henderson, and Stark Counties who have pensions under $20,000 per year and who get NO Social Security benefits because they taught all their lives.  Many of these pensioners are widows.

Don Moffitt recognizes this, and he stuck by his educator constituents.  Thanks, Don!  You're more than a hero in our house--you're what our founding fathers intended a legislator to be!

Representative Tom Cross
Villain:  House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R) Oswego.

I know this guy!  He went to Yorkville High School where I taught once upon a time.  I'm not sure if Bob Evans or Bob Williams, the football coaches at Yorkville, terrorized him or what happened when he was a student, but Cross has had it in for teachers all through this pension process.

Then last night he had the nerve to say about the legislation that HE once sponsored, “In many ways, we owe those folks [teachers and other public employeed] an apology from (the) General Assembly."

Apology?  Buddy, you are in the pockets of the fat cats at the "Civic" Federation of Chicago.  The corporate millionaires and billionaires will be lining your pockets with campaign contributions now.  All they expect is that you continue to support the massive tax breaks that the state gives them and their companies.

Meanwhile teachers in Newark, Lisbon, Plattville, and other small towns in your district suffer.  I'm not sure how you sleep at night.

You know what you can do with your apology, big boy!

Rep. Jack Franks

Villain:  Representative Jack Franks (D) Marengo.

Jack Franks is another turncoat Democrat, just like Madigan.  Here's a guy who helped force me out of full-time teaching.  He voted "yes" back in 2005 to NOT appropriate the $409 million to the Teachers Retirement System.

The money was used to balance the state budget, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back as far as pension funding goes.  Teachers over 55 (my wife and myself) were forced to choose whether to retire in 2007 or stay longer and get less in pension benefits.  We got out.

Yesterday, Franks voted in favor of Madigan's bill to screw teachers.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Franks is from McHenry County, which is the most corrupt county in Illinois.  Historically, it was the McHenry County Republicans who wallowed the stink of the corruption.  It's nice to see that Franks has learned his lessons from his colleagues from the other party.

Rep. Kay Hatcher
Villain:  Representative Kay Hatcher (R) Yorkville.

Kay Hatcher may be the worst of the worst of the above villains.  She is a liar!

Back in 2010, I was filling in as the news guy at WSPY-FM radio in Plano.  The primary was coming up, and I was on a panel of reporters who asked the candidates questions in the old Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville.

Pension legislation was in the wind even then, and I asked Hatcher about what she thought of freezing the cost of living adjustments for retired teachers.

"Oh, I would never be in favor of that," Hatcher said.  "Our teachers have worked long and hard for their retirement pensions.  I would never vote to do anything to hurt our retired teachers."

Hatcher voted "yes" on Madigan's pension killing bill yesterday.

Villain:  The Chicago Tribune. Here's what the "World's Greatest Newspaper" said to teachers in its editorial in the May 2, 2013 edition.

"You'll still be getting a generous deal--benefits that all of your friends in the private sector will subsidize, but for higher than what they'll receive from Social Security.  You're still in a defined benefit retirement plan at a time when governments elsewhere are starting to shirt toward defined contributions plans similar to 401(k)s.  And of course, you can invest on your own to secure an even more comfortable retirement."

The Trib's editorial board has been spewing crap like this for years now.  What the Trib. doesn't say is that most teacher pensions in Illinois are not "generous."  The newspaper only writes about the suburban administrators and teachers who are getting six-figure pensions.  Retired downstate teachers are barely mentioned.

And by the way, Tribsters, we retired teachers paid much more for our pensions than we would have paid for Social Security benefits.  Our pensions SHOULD be higher than SS.

As far as investing goes, try investing a portion of your teaching salary when you are living in Roseville, Illinois, making $28,000 a year with a Master's degree, and  a wife and two kids.  Yeah, sure!

I'd love to teach the Tribune Editorial Board beginning journalism.  Their bias leaks from the editorial page onto the news pages every day.  They should be ashamed.


There are lots more villains who could join this club.  Governor Pat Quinn; Representative Elaine Nekritz (Madigan's toad); Representative Pam Roth, who likes to tout that she will not accept a pension from the state when she and her husband, Steve, are independently wealthy.

More on them next time and more on the unions and whether they are what Madigan says they are ("Paper Tigers") or if they are indeed representing their members.

Thanks for reading this!  Writing it has made me feel better!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Letter to Your Illinois State Legislator. Copy and send!

Dear __________________:

I am writing you to ask you to please support Senate Bill 2404, which is being considered by the Illinois State Legislature.  Please do not support Speaker of  House Michael Madigan’s pension bill.  Speaker Madigan’s bill will hurt my family.

I am a retired teacher.  I will not get Social Security benefits because of my years paying into the Teachers Retirement System rather than paying into Social Security.

Therefore, freezing my cost of living adjustments is freezing my income.  If Speaker Madigan’s bill passes and is signed by the governor,  I will be forced to find full-time work in order to maintain our home and family.

The Illinois Constitution guarantees pension benefits for retired teachers, stating that these benefits “cannot be diminished.”  By voting for Speaker Madigan’s bill, you are violating your oath of office to uphold the Illinois State Constitution.

Think of the widowed retired teachers in downstate Illinois who are living on a pension of less than $25,000 per year.  These retired teachers are close to the poverty level, and since CIGNA, the state insurance is not paying its vendors on time because the state is broke, these widows are even more strapped for money.

Every time the Chicago Tribune runs a pension story, a rich, retired administrator from the Chicago suburbs is singled out.  The fact is that in places like Serena, Knoxville, and Morrisonville, retired teachers are living from hand-to-mouth.  You must consider the plight of these female, retired teachers and not listen to the Tribune, which is a shill for the Civic Federation.  The Civic Federation is not concerned with “fixing” the pension problem; its members are rich billionaires who only want to continue the corporate tax breaks that the State of Illinois is giving their companies.

A widowed teacher in Alexis, Illinois living on a pension of $19,000 per year will be hurt considerably by Speaker Madigan’s bill should it become law.  I hope that you will vote yes when SB 2404 reaches your chamber.

Thanks for considering my request.

[Your Name]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Letter to Representative Elaine Nekritz Regarding Her Teacher Pension Bill

"The wife" has her say on pensions:

State Representative Elaine Nekritz

Dear Representative Nekritz,

You are quoted in the Chicago Tribune today (Sunday, March 24, 2013) saying you are going to go home for your spring break and "think about pensions."

While you are doing that, think about the downstate teachers outside of the Chicago suburbs who are getting very little in pension benefits and now will see their Cost of Living Adjustments frozen or limited to $750 a year should your bill become law.

As a woman, you know that taking time off from work to raise children is a part of life.  Downstate female teachers who took five-ten years off to "stay home with the kids" will be hurt if your bill becomes law. 

These women teachers were unable to go to graduate school because of family obligations.  In many cases they retired with pensions under $30,000 a year, and since women live longer than men, these retired women teachers who are widows or single are close to the poverty level right now.  Your bill will push them over the edge.

Representative Nekritz, you and your colleagues should look at the corporate tax breaks that are being given out to keep companies from moving out of Illinois, and while you are at it, look at CAT chairman Doug Oberman's $42 million dollar a year salary.  You might find that an investigation of THOSE factors mitigate your eagerness to hurt women teachers.

And also ask yourself why Laurence Msall and his billionaire fellow members of the Civic Federation are working so hard to limit teacher pensions.  Their work is not "civic"; it is self serving.  The Civic Federation members simply don't want to pay taxes.

I hope that you will listen to my voice crying out in the wilderness and that you will defend the pensions of retired teachers who are women.

Thanks for listening to my opinion.

Pam Wyman

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happiness Is Knowing When You're Happy!

Happiness is a Warm Fuzztone:  The Remaining Few.  L-R:  Jim (Rona) Wyman (organ), Ed Fischer (drums), Buzz Graham (bass guitar), Paul Cooler (lead guitar).  Photo taken in the Corbin-Olson cafeteria in the fall of 1966 at Western Illinois University.
An exciting week in the annals of a garage band life as Bev Cookson, who was mentioned in my recent blog posting about  garage bands, contacted me last weekend.

Bev was the girlfriend of Buzzy Graham, who was the bass player in my band at Western Illinois University in 1966-67 called The Remaining Few.

Bev and Buzz were an item when I began playing in The Remaining Few in October of 1966, and they dated throughout my tenure with the band.  Unfortunately, Bev and Buzz broke up, Buzz married a Macomb High girl, and both Bev and Buzz went on with their lives . . . their completely separate lives.

Another "unfortunately" is that Buzz died at the age of 58 in 2008.  He was a reading instructor at Rock Valley College in Rockford at the time of his death.

There is some unhappiness in the above words so let's get to the happiness part of this posting.

When I sat down at the computer last Sunday, there was Bev Cookson's reply at the end of my "Garage Bands I Have Known" posting.  Here's what she said:  "It's the middle of the night and insomnia has struck again. I was browsing and got to wondering whatever happened to [the Macomb band] Brillo and the Firebirds, believe it or not. So I Googled it. Anyway, long story short, it led to me to wondering whatever happened to Roger Vail, and lo and behold, it popped up. The Vectors, The Remaining Few, Fischer, Cooler, and Rona. Seems like a million years ago. How about a little "My Generation"? Loved you guys doing that song! Great band, great memories, even for a silly high school kid."

Bev and I have been exchanging e-mails ever since I received her note, and I have been gabbling to anyone who will listen about my days playing in garage bands, especially in the bands at Western.  

I have had a happy week, very happy!

I guess the reason why I've felt so good is because I realize that my life was really happy when I was playing in that band at Western, and I've been able to resurrect that happiness this week.  Dodging the pitfalls of life was always a concern, but I was able to successfully avoid all the negative things that came my way--at least then!

Bev mentioned in one of her e-mails how she made the ruffled shirts and burgundy vests that the band wore, and I remembered how she measured us for the shirts in the basement of Buzz's house and how when I looked at her running that tape measure up my left arm as she jotted down my sleeve length that I knew right then that I was happy and that I was going to remember that moment in time for the rest of my life.  

I knew I was happy when I was happy, and that is the key.  Knowing you are happy at the time you are happy.

It sounds a bit stupid, but it's true.  How many days do we plod through life looking for happiness.  "If I could only get to this point, I could be happy," we think.  And more often than not, that point never comes.

We reminisce about the days when we had happiness in our lives and strive all our days to recapture those fleeting moments.  More often than not that never happens.

But when Bev was measuring me for that shirt on that warm and sunny October day in 1966, I knew at that moment that I was happy--happy that I was away from home and all the conflict and unhappiness that existed in my family, happy that I was going to be wearing a cool looking shirt and vest, not to mention wearing burgundy Levis and  burgundy Beatle boots, and also happy that I was playing with guys who were not only good musicians but great guys as well.  And most of all happy that Bev Cookson was so devoted to all of us.  She loved our music, and we loved her for that.  Even after 46 years, I never forgot Bev's kindness.

The teenage years can be years of heartbreak and anguish.  I suffered from chronic depression in the fall of 1965 when I thought my life was falling apart.  A broken heart, an overbearing parent, academic struggles all contributed to the depression.

But the teenage years can be times of great happiness as well.  The key is recognizing happiness when it comes and then treasuring those moments in your heart.

Every time I hear that song, "The Way You Look Tonight," by Frank Sinatra, I think of my first real girlfriend getting in my dad's Chevy, turning towards me, and giving me this big smile on a beautiful June night in 1965, the early evening sun shining into the car onto her blue Madras blouse.

"Some day, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight."

I'm thinking of you today, Sandy, Bev, Paul, Ed, and Buzz.  I'm thinking of playing "My Generation," "The Jolly Green Giant," "Stepping Stone," "On Broadway," and "Little Latin Lupe Lu." 

And I'm happy, even if there are tears in my eyes! 

Hope this helps you too!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pension Bill Must Be Stopped. CALL NOW!

O.K., teachers.  Enough 60's garage band nostalgia--it's time for all of you to get up off your butts and call your state legislators about this pension legislation that the Illinois House will consider tomorrow.

For you active teachers, you will be forced to pay 2% more of your salary to TRS, and you will teach until you are 67 years old.  As an active teacher, you will be paying more money for less benefits.  Female teachers who stayed home with the kids and went back into the classroom after four or five years, you will be 75 before you retire. 

Ready to teach The Canterbury Tales, Grandma?  How about the Speech to Convince?

Retirees, this bill is worse for you.  Your Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) will be frozen.  Retired teachers will not receive the COLA until age 67 (even if you have already been getting it), and then the COLA will be based on a meager salary of $25,000.  If, like me, you will draw Social Security benefits, the amount used for your COLA will be $20,000--that's 600 bucks a year.  SHEET!

Oh, yeah, if you worked in a job where you paid Social Security, there already is a law on the books where your SS benefits are garnished.  I worked 9 1/2 years full time and 34 1/2 years part-time in radio, but those benefits will go bye-bye next year when I turn 66 and begin to draw SS benefits.  I'll be lucky to get $250 a month from Social Security.

Geez, what did teachers ever do to these politicians.  They must have had a shitty teacher like the p.e teacher who terrorized my brother by reading his grades out loud to the entire gym class.

My mom took care of that asshole.  However, Uncle Roy's story will have to be saved for another day.  There are phone calls to be made tonight and Tuesday.

Mike Madigan.  The man pulling the strings.

Once again, Mike Madigan, Pat Quinn, and Tom Cross have left the unions in the lurch.  Neither the Illinois Federation of Teachers or the Illinois Education Association were invited to the table to negotiate future pension legislation.

The union proposal calls for everyone to bite the bullet--not just teachers!  Under the current bill being considered, teachers and other public employees pay.  Everyone else is off the hook!

The unions have proposed cutting out Illinois corporate tax breaks, having teachers pay more for their pensions, and requiring a law that forces the state to make its pension payments.  Union leaders would also like to see a graduated income tax law passed.  Right now billionaire Penny Pritzker pays the same percentage of her income for state income tax as a first-year teacher pays.

Where are Laurence Msall, the president of the Civic Federation and Ty Fahner of the Civic Committee this week?  Both Msall and Fahner have been pounding the drum for pension reform, and their groups made up of millionaires and billionaires have been pouring money into radio/television commercials against public employee pensions.  But these jerk weeds disappear every time push comes to shove.

But teachers and other public employees have one thing that these rich bastards don't have.  Votes!  Last night when I was going through my list of state legislators (My House and Senate districts will change Wednesday when the new General Assembly is sworn in), Senator Chris Lauzen of Aurora answered his phone in person.

State Senator Chris Lauzen
Lauzen, who has never been a friend of teachers, listened to my arguments and promised to look closely at any legislation that comes before the Illinois Senate.  I don't know if I persuaded him to vote "no" on Elaine Nekritz's bill, but I felt good about the phone call.

You must call too.  We have power at the ballot box, and these politicians do not want to be voted out of office.  Just think how many retired teachers and retired NIU professors live in DeKalb County.  Lauzen and other politicians know this, and they will not vote for a bill that undermines their chance for re-election.  

Probably the most persuasive argument against the current pension legislation is the fact that the pending bill is unconstitutional.  There is a clause in the Illinois State Constitution that prevents existing pension benefits from being “diminished or impaired.”

The two teachers unions are also telling legislators that they are violating their oath of office by voting for this bill:  “I do solemnly swear (affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of …. to the best of my ability.”

Maybe we should make a citizen's arrest and throw those legislators who vote for this bill in jail!

My wife and I were forced out of teaching because Mike Madigan and his buddy Rod Blagojevich skipped the $405 million dollar payment to the Teachers Retirement System in 2005.  We had one chance to get out under the old pension formula.  We HAD to retire.

I told Representative Kay Hatcher's secretary this morning that I wanted my old job back.  "If Kay votes 'yes,'" I told the secretary, "I want to go back into the public school classroom full-time.  And I'll sue if I can't return."  The secretary was quiet for a long time.

So find out who your legislators are, go to the We Are One Illinois web site.  Fill out the form, and the web site will automatically connect you with your legislator.  Leave a message for your state representative and your state senator.   Simply leave your name, address, and phone number, and tell them that the pension legislation being considered is unconstitutional.

It is a simple task.  DO IT!  YOUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Garage Bands I Have Known!

A still from the new film Not Fade Away
The new movie Not Fade Away jogs my memory back to 1964 when the band The Rooks first took the stage in Crystal Lake, Illinois.  I haven't seen Not Fade Away yet--it's only playing in downtown Chicago-- but from what I've seen online, I lived that movie's story.

A couple of suburban kids decide to form a group.  They do.  The band prospers, but egos get in the way.  The band breaks up, and the musicians move to different bands and begin anew.  From 1964-1968 that was my scenario.  In fact I lived it many, many times!

So this morning when I received a "Happy New Year" wish on Facebook from former bandmate Hamilton "Tip" Hale, I was transported back to December 31, 1965, when Tip and I, along with John Baldwin, Mark Smith, and Jamie Pennebaker played at Mickey Cox's raucous New Year's Eve party on South Walkup Street in Crystal Lake.  We were the garage band called Aristotle and the Aminal Crackers, and we rocked the world that night!

I wish every New Year's Eve could be like 1965's.  Seventeen years old.  No responsibility.  Running wild and playing rock 'n roll music every blankin' day of the week.

How did I get in a garage band anyway?

Flash back further to the fall of 1964 and the delicatessen on Virginia St. in Crystal Lake, just across the street from Blanche Moan's grill.  Steve Brown worked there manning the snack counter, and I used to hang out at "the del" just so I could get away from my old man who was constantly on my ass about everything--hair, work, shitty grades, and not helping out around the house.  "The del" was only a couple of blocks away from home, and it became a place of refuge for me.  I was there all the time!

Brown, who was in the class ahead of me and who played the drums, started talking to me one day about forming a rock band.  He had already approached Mike Walkup and Tim McPike, who were both in the Class of '67, a year behind me, about playing with him.

Steve was sitting behind the yellow formica counter and started talking about his rock 'n roll plans.

"Rona, can you play guitar?" Steve asked me.

"No, but I took piano lessons in fifth and sixth grades," I told him.

"What?  You're kidding!" he said.  "Can you play the electric organ?"

"I'm not sure.  It's just like the piano isn't it?"

"Wow!  Two guitars, drums, and an organ.  That would be great!"  Steve jumped up and started excitedly pacing back and forth behind the counter.

"But I haven't played regularly in years, Steve," I told him.  "I do have a piano at home though."

"Go home and practice, and I'll bring Walkup and McPike over in a few days and we'll listen to you," Steve said.

When Brown, McPike, and Walkup came over to my parents' house to hear me, I played them "Rockin' Robin" on the piano, and they immediately asked me to join their new band, The Rooks.

My Danelectro amp.

A few weeks later, I found myself in Walkup's basement with a crappy organ that I was able to talk my parents into buying me at the music store at Meadowdale Shopping Center.  The store technician had installed microphone pick-ups in the organ, but I couldn't jack the sound up high enough to compete with the guitars because the organ would feed back through my used Danelectro amplifier.  It was a mess!

In another two weeks The Rooks played their first job at Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin, where Steve's sister went to school.  Then we were asked to play a dance in the lower gym in at Crystal Lake Community High School.  But my organ was still a problem because nobody could hear it.

My Farfisa Combo Compact
Brown, Walkup, and McPike were going to kick me out of the band unless I got a new organ.  About this time, in early 1965, Paul Revere and the Raiders had released the songs "Steppin' Out" and "Just Like Me," and the Raiders were all over television.  Paul Revere played a bright, candy apple red Farfisa Combo Compact electric organ.  So did Sam of Sam the Sham and the Pharaoahs, the group that did "Wooly Bully." The Medowdale music store had one in stock for $700.00.  Big money in late spring of 1965!  In fact, $5,100 in 2013 dollars!
Sam the Sham playing the candy apple red Farfisa organ.

Believe it or not, I was able to persuade my mother and father (mostly my mom--she was the musician in the family) to buy the Farfisa for me on credit. 

I can still see the bright red Farfisa sitting in Brown's basement the very first time I set it up in late spring of '65.  All of the sudden, I had become a valuable commodity in the band.  We had a great time playing together too!  Donna Brown's eight grade graduation party, the eighth grade dance at Lundahl Jr. High, Candy Kirchberg's birthday party behind the cart shack at Crystal Lake Country Club.  The gigs just kept on coming.

However, the Rooks broke up mid summer of '65 because I left to join the best band in Crystal Lake, The Jades, which was made up of Dick Lockwood, Gary Burhmann, Al Sherwood, and Mike Wienke.  The Jades played all over the county, including Vern Seaquist's famous summer party in Lakewood at Gate 21 in August of 1965.

But those guys in the Jades all got drafted that fall so that was the end of that band.  I still had another year of high school. 

The Remains:  From L-R:  Mark Smith, John Baldwin, Tim McPike, Jim Wyman, and "Tip" Hale (March 1966).
In fall of 1965, I joined Aristotle and the Aminal Crackers, which consisted of Tip Hale, Jamie Pennebaker, Mark Smith, and John Baldwin.  Baldwin and I had played Babe Ruth League baseball together.  Hale's and my mom's families were early settlers in the county, so my mom knew Tip's dad.  And Jamie Pennebaker was my neighbor on Eagle St.  We had grown up together!  Smith is another story for another day--he became a serial killer!

Jamie's mom worked nights at the Pinemoor, a neighborhood bar and pizza joint, so the band could practice, play cards, and drink beer to our hearts' content at Jamie's house without any adult interference.  Rubber Soul by the Beatles had just been released, and I remember sitting at the kitchen table playing cards and listening to "Norwegian Wood."  Aristotle and the Aminal Crackers were pretty darn good too!  Sometime that winter, Pennebaker was out of the band and Tim McPike, who I had played with in the Rooks, was in.  I don't remember how or why Jamie Pennebaker was replaced.  Aristotle and the Animal Crackers now became The Remains.

Vox Buckingham amplifier
I never made any money playing for the Remains because all the amps and the P.A. were bought on credit by Mark Smith's mom so all the money from the gigs went to pay off the interest on the loan.  I had a sweet Vox Buckingham amplifier, but had to give it back to Smith when the band broke up the summer of 1966.

Sears Silvertone amp.  Crosby, Stills, and Nash still were using one the last time I saw them in 2007.
I replaced the Buckingham with  a Silvertone amp from Sears that I got second-hand from a guy I worked with at the Terra Cotta plant.  My time in Crystal Lake was up, however, as I was off to Western Illinois University.  It was time for college!

I left my Farfisa and my amp at home when I traipsed off to WIU.  The break-up of the Remains had left a sour taste in my mouth because I had played my ass off and had made zero money.  But I was still playing music in my spare time.

I didn't know it then, but I am very caffeine-sensitive.  Every night I would drink a Coke before bed and then be unable to sleep.  So I would grab my music books and go downstairs to the Ravine Room in Lincoln-Washington Towers (Lincoln was my dorm) and play the piano at two in the morning.

There was normally no one down there, but one night these two hippy-type guys came over to the piano and started firing requests at me.  I played them all!  The two guys were Ed Fischer and Paul Cooler, who had been members of the band The Vectors during the previous school year.  Fischer and Cooler were both sophomores at WIU; I was a freshman.

The Shadows of Knight:  Joe Kelley is center in the back.
Joe Kelley, who played with the Shadows of Knight on their hit record "Gloria" had been in the Vectors the previous year at WIU with Fischer and Cooler along with Roger Vail and Buzzy Graham (townies from Macomb) so when Fischer and Cooler told me they wanted me to help them form a band, I agreed on the spot. The Shadows of Knight were legendary in the northwest suburbs, and getting the chance to play with guys who played with Joe Kelley was a lot closer to the big time than I had ever been.

I headed back to Crystal Lake that weekend with Charlie Schott in his '49 Ford, got my Farfisa and my amp, and joined the band at WIU called The Remaining Few.  Cooler was lead guitar, Fischer sang and played drums, and Buzzy Graham played the bass.

The Remaining Few, playing at a Saturday night dance in the Corbin-Olson cafeteria at Western Illinois University--fall of 1966. L-R: Jim "Rona" Wyman (organ), Ed Fischer (drums), Buzz Graham (bass), Paul Cooler (lead guitar).

 When I say the money began rolling in, I'm not exaggerating.  We played gigs every Friday and Saturday night.  Dances at the union, frat parties, high school proms and post-proms--you name it, we played it!  I was able to pay a lot of my college expenses with money I made from playing in The Remaining Few. 

The Remaining Few's first gig was at the Teen-a-Go-Go in the small town of Blandinsville, about a half-hour north of Macomb.  Buzzy Graham's girlfriend, Bev Cookson, got us the gig, and a bunch of my buddies from Crystal Lake, including Craig Knaack and Danny Treptow, came up to see us play.  Treptow had played in a competing band in high school back in Crystal Lake.

Well, the local Blandinsville girls started to dig on the college boys and began asking them to dance.  The local boys from Blandinsville objected to their girls dancing with the college boys so a big fight broke out.  We were playing "Stepping Stone" by the Monkees when the fur started flying.  Blandinsville had one cop, and he arrived to break up the fight and threw the college boys out.

The Remaining Few evolved as Buzzy was replaced by Bob Palazoa, and John "Bobo" Rosemond took over as lead singer.  Bobo, like Mark Smith, is famous today.  He is a noted child psychologist who has appeared on 60 Minutes.

The Remaining Few on the steps of Grote Hall, Western Illinois University, March 1967.  L to R:  Jim (Rona) Wyman (organ), Bob Palazoa (Zoa) (bass guitar), Paul Cooler (lead guitar), John (Bobo) Rosemond (vocals), Ed Fischer (drums) (Courier Photo by Kay Chin).
The Remaining Few played two gigs that are somewhat famous in western Illinois rock 'n roll histroy.  First, we replaced the Buckinghams as the featured band at the University Union Winter Concert in January 1967.  The Buckinghams couldn't get out of Chicago because of the famous blizzard.  I can remember seeing kids dancing for what seemed like miles as we played on that cold winter night in the University Union's Grand Ballroom.

Second, The Remaining Few opened for Saturday's Children and the Shadows of Knight in a concert at Robert Morris College in Carthage in May of 1967.  Cooler and Fischer had a happy reunion with Joe Kelley that night, and we partied long and hard with the two bands.  Both the Shadows of Knight and Saturday's Children came out of the Cellar, the most famous Chicago teen dance club in northwest suburban Arlington Heights.

Cooler and Palazoa left WIU, Fischer got married, and in the fall of 1967, I began playing with Roger Vail, who had been in the Vectors with Fischer, Cooler, and Graham.  This is my Roccoco Period in Garage Band annals.  There were just three of us in the band, Vail was the main guy, and we played the Showboat Strip Club as the house band--not a very happy time.

But during the summer of '67 I did reunite with Tim McPike, who was playing in a great band from McHenry.  We even had a chance to cut a record, but I headed back to college trying to avoid the draft.

Terry Cox
Other then jamming once in a while, my music career ended in 1968.  But I still remember giving Terry Cox, Mickey Cox's sister, a soul kiss at midnight on December 31, 1965.  That kiss wouldn't have happened without me being in a garage band.

And that kiss is a good memory to recall on January 2, 2013.  A very good memory!