A Publication of WTVP

Sure hope you're planning to attend the Peoria Historical Society's annual dinner September 9. I'm looking forward to it. They're informative-and it's great to see folks I see all too infrequently as we all run in our hectic, day-to-day paces.

This year, my anticipation level is a bit higher. The theme is the 100th anniversary of the track-type tractor. It should be interesting, with antique and present-day Caterpillar machines on display.

The exact day, I've learned, was November 24, 1904. More celebrating will take place in November, so I look at the historical society's function as the kick-off to what should be a few months of celebration and reflection.

Reflection isn't a bad thing to do once in a while. Rightly so, we're constantly focused on the future, but it's interesting now and then to reflect back on why this community is what it is and how it got there.

The real impact of the track-type tractor hit us five years later, in 1909, when the Holt company began manufacturing those machines in East Peoria. (I can see the theme of the 2009 dinner already.) While I didn't know that date until I did a little research recently, many of us get a daily reminder when we drive across the Murray Baker Bridge, which was named after the man who convinced Benjamin Holt to come here.

All this emphasis on a machine that's been made in East Peoria for almost a century seems a good time to reflect on what that's meant-and continues to mean-to this community. By that I mean not necessarily the machine, but the company that's become synonymous with that machine around the world-Caterpillar.

It wouldn't be an understatement to say this area is what it is because of Caterpillar. Of course, every town with a dominant employer is what it is because of that employer, but I'll take the way Caterpillar relates with its community over the way many other companies do.

Visit some cities, and you know you're in a "one-horse" town. The name of the employer is everywhere-on buildings, arenas, you name it. I often wonder if that's the only way that company "gives back" to its community. It seems meant to be so visible.

It makes one quite thankful to have a company that approaches its role in the community the way Caterpillar does. So much of what it contributes is behind the scenes-be it loaned executives, help for many charitable and community organizations, fund raisers, land, and much more.

It's dangerous, and certainly not fair, to even try to list the things Caterpillar does for the community. What's important, though, is that it all seems to be done without a desire for public recognition or praise. In fact, the opposite is true. No strings attached; just use the money to make the Peoria area a better place to live.

More than once, I've paused to think how "worldly" Peoria is compared to cities of its size and location. So many of our citizens have lived all over the world, and countless others have visited the far corners of the earth. Add to that the constant influx of those who call those far corners home, and you have a community that stands out.

For all of that-and so much more-Thank You, Caterpillar. IBI