Rantoul, Illinois
Octave Chanute Air Force Base
August, 2000

Where in the world is Rantoul???

It's in Illinois, just a little north of the center of the state.  My dad worked for Boeing on special assignment here, twice; for about two years each.  I was three or four the first time we were here.  When we came back I was in kindergarten and left at the beginning of second grade.

We arrived in Rantoul and started driving through town, (using forty year old memories to locate my old house).  The town was smaller then and only had one traffic signal.  I thought I recognized an intersection and soon located my old school next to the railroad tracks.  Since I used to ride my bike to school, I knew the roads to the house, or so I thought. 

The last time I was here, my house was on the edge of town.  There was vacant land and corn fields behind the houses across the street.  Now there are a lot more blocks with a lot more houses -- but with our good 'ol cell phone, I called my mom and she looked up our old address.  Before we got off the phone we were sitting in front of the house -- (it sure seemed a lot bigger when I was six).
Octave Chanute Air Force Base was an active military base in Rantoul until the cut-backs in the early 1990's.  It was a training base during the late 1950's until it's closure.  My dad provided training for Boeing products like the Minuteman and BOMARC missiles.

Now it's a great aircraft and military museum.  Here, Mitch and Max stand next to an IM-99A BOMARC.

Lloyd Hopwood was the base commander then.  The town mayors were Byron Gates and Ellis Zook.

The base is slowly filling with new businesses.  We stayed in an RV park that used to be the base's mobile home park.  The main training building and hangar are now the Octave Chanute Air Museum. 

This B-52 was really interesting.  It was stored outside and had been sitting there for a long time.  From the dust and cobwebs inside, you could see that it hadn't received any restoration and very little maintenance -- (no stairs and handrails here).  To climb up into the plane and squeeze our way into the cockpit was like stepping back in time.

We really enjoyed this museum.  It told about the history of Rantoul as well as the air base.

As a kid we used to play a game -- whenever we saw jets in the sky we had to run and dive into the crawl space under the house before the sonic boom hit.  If we didn't make, it we would fall dead and roll dramatically on the ground.  No more sonic booms now, but Max really liked this ejection seat.

Two blocks down the street from the old "Piggly Wiggly" grocery store where we used to shop is a Wal Mart.  There was a corn field right next to the parking lot so Mitch and Max got a chance to see how tall a midwest corn field really gets.

They quickly disappeared as they went into the field.  It looked just like a scene from The Field of Dreams and Cheryl was wondering if they would get lost in there.  They came out shortly and Max had a slight black eye.  While running, he plowed straight into ear of corn.

I really like this sign; (we see 'em all).  Keep in mind that once you leave here you might not be able to get back.  Either that or whichever way you turn, you will meet head-on traffic.

We just, (9/17/00), saw a better sign in Westerly, Rhode Island.  It said:

School Buses Only
There was a stop sign ahead but the cross traffic did not stop.  We never did figure that one out.
We headed north out of Rantoul towards Chicago.  We saw what looked to be an old factory built of brick.  On the end of the building there were several new cars with a brick wall on top of them.  It looked like this huge, old building had burnt within the last week.  It must have been quite a fire. 
Cheryl likes to stop at the Tourist Information Centers to collect information for planning.  The freeway sign read: "Tourist Info Next Exit."  It was the next exit, but it was ten miles off of the freeway, in the little town of Griggsville, Illinois.
As we approached town we saw what looked like a tower with emergency alarms all over it.  What could it be?  We soon realized that these were all bird houses.

Every house in town had one or two bird houses.  Every street, on every corner had a bird house.  Every business and building had bird houses.  They were everywhere!!

 This town really loves the Purple Martin!
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