April 20, 2007. The scheduled date for the second leg of our 24 Hours in Peoria project, and we couldn’t have picked a better one. We would not need our backup plan—it was sunny and gorgeous, the nicest day of the year thus far. A sense of buoyant optimism—the invigorating feeling that comes with springtime—ruled the air.
We had a full schedule of places to be, people to meet and photographs to take, and everything went like clockwork. It was a wonderful day to be out of the office and to get some fresh air! So just what do people do in Peoria during the day? We attempt to answer that question with part two of 24 Hours in Peoria.
We began the day just west of town at the headquarters for this manufacturer of parts and products for off-road trucks. After signing in at the front desk, we headed to the building next door, where the morning shift was already hard at work. Operations Manager Tom Doering and Production Superintendent Steve Linnemann kindly gave us a tour of the sprawling facility, where high-tech equipment meets bluecollar know-how.
Whitney Veterinary Hospital
Across town the Whitney staff has its hands full juggling check-ups, surgeries and boarding appointments for its beloved canine and feline clients. Next to the main building is Whitney’s Cat Care Clinic, a separate house where the cats are content to be kept apart from their dog counterparts. In the short time we are there, we witness a dental cleaning and part of a hip surgery, along with a number of regular check-ups.
Manual High School
Although we arrived too late for
the all-school assembly that was held that morning, we were able to take a peek into an art class and watch the chorus practice. Art teacher Andrea Ernest spends her days teaching Manual students the art of ceramics, among many other
artistic endeavors. In the chorus room, the students run through a couple of numbers, accompanied by piano.
Skippy’s Barber Shop & Kelly Allen & Kelly
Our next two stops were barbershops, each of them an institution in Peoria. Located within a few blocks of each other, just southwest of downtown, both Skippy’s and Kelly Allen & Kelly are throwbacks to a simpler time, when a barber shop was more than just a place to cut your hair, but a fixture in the neighborhood—a place where everybody knows your name.
George’s Shoeshine & Hatters
Talk about historical fixtures—George’s Shoeshine & Hatters has been in business for more than 60 years! The inside of the shop, owned by the indefatigable George Manias, serves as a museum showcasing the many people, famous and otherwise, he has serviced over the years.
After my own shoes were polished, we broke for lunch, along with hundreds of other Peorians, who took to the downtown’s famous street vendors. The sunshine couldn’t have been more perfect for the Arts in Education Spring Celebration, an annual event which highlights area students’ artistic talents.
Fred’s Shoe Repair
If you need it fixed in a jiffy—whether luggage, sports equipment, shoes or otherwise—look no further. With locations on University and Prospect, this family business has built a loyal following over its 35-year lifespan. In the brief time we were there, Ray Khattar and staff jumped from station to station, all the while sewing, shining, stripping, tapping, cutting, gluing and fixing all sorts of accessories with trademark precision and care.
The Peoria Zoo at Glen Oak Park
We arrived in time to watch the sea lion feeding, a daily occurrence here at the zoo. Kids and adults alike enjoy the tricks performed by these highly intelligent and lovable creatures. After a quick walk to see the tigers and zebras, we returned to the main building for the 2:30 feeding of the primates. The dusky leaf monkeys and spider monkeys, along with their gibbon and lemur relatives, are also crowd favorites.
3:00pm, our final stop: the air-conditioned offices of WCBU FM in Jobst Hall on the campus of Bradley University. With a voice made for radio, Lee Wenger spins classical music on-air, while newsman Jonathan Ahl preps for the afternoon newscast. In a small booth, Chris Grube and Alan Moore read news for the blind as part of the station’s free Radio Information Service.