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Getting ready for a Civil War re-enactment

Dressing: Sutlery provides
clothing and other articles

[MAY 25, 2001]  Just on the outskirts south of Lincoln sits a unique, small, yet world-famous family-run business. R & K’s Sutlery has supplied authentic reproduction Civil War-period clothing and associated articles for people all over the world. "You name it, from Australia to South Africa," Coons says. "I believe we are the largest sutlery in the world." The sutlery carries a full line of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, as well as military uniforms, accoutrements and weapons.

The business flowed out of Robert Coon’s 30-year hobby, performing in Civil War re-enactments. When his 29-year job with the utility company ended due to a back injury, it was a natural transition for him to break into the sutlery supply business. His passion, knowledge and expertise have made the business grow in leaps and bounds. He’s been at it for 15 years now, and his business just continues to grow. "I can keep barely keep up with it," Coons says. "Sales keep increasing."

Robert’s wife, Kay, is an important part in running the business. She works mostly in the office, handling orders, making travel arrangements and taking care of many other details. The Coons have brought in two of their grandchildren to help handle the expanding business. Sixteen-year-old Mallory Coons will be in the office full time as soon as school lets out. Brian Baker has been working full time in the family business for some time now and is particularly valuable to his grandfather on the road. They travel all summer long, setting up the store at various re-enactment sites.

The family is looking forward to a big business trip together this summer. Oddly enough it is overseas to England. The English are hosting a large American Civil War re-enactment and have a weekend full of battles and other activities planned. There is a chartered plane taking a large group of military re-enactors over as well.

With their vast stock valued at about $70,000, R & K Sutlery has supplied costuming for a number of movies, re-enactments, two Broadway theater productions and even the opera. "We are capable of coming in and outfitting an entire regiment," Coons says with pride, "and that takes a lot of stock."

R & K’s movie credits include:

•  "C.S.Hunley: A story about the 1st submarine." It was owned by the Confederates and sunk by a Yankee ship. The movie was made by Turner Network.

•  "The Day They Shot Lincoln"


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•  "The Patriot," starring Mel Gibson. This movie is from an earlier time period than the Civil War, but R & K supplied the ladies’ undergarments because they were the same kind.

•  "Last of the Mohicans"

•  "Gettysburg"

•  "The North and the South"

It takes a lot of clothing and miscellaneous articles to fully equip a full military regiment, and then there are two sides to that story. Kay jokingly says they are a "nonpartisan sutlery." They stock military uniforms for both the North and the South. Northerners wore two tones of blue, and the South dressed in gray. The military divisions include infantry (on foot), cavalry (on horseback) and artillery (shooting cannons).

The sutlery carries a vast variety of items. You name it and you will find it. They have specialized buttons, footwear, swords and all sorts of authentic reproduction weapons, ladies’ fans and sun umbrellas, woolen stockings, hats, haversacks, camping gear, and tents.

They have clothing in stock or you can have clothing custom made to fit. With 14 people sewing, they manufacture most of what they sell. You don’t have to be going to a Civil War event to find articles of interest from their products. Many items are quite suitable for modern-day use. Thick, woolen socks are great for winter outdoor activities, and there are decorative and functional accessories like ladies’ fans and gloves.

Most of R & K’s sales are orders that are processed and shipped. The Coonses do invite people to their stock house to shop, though they prefer customers to call and make an appointment. Phone (217) 732-8844.

You can see many of the items the sutlery offers online at their website, Their e-mail address is


[Jan Youngquist]

‘The Frugal Gambler’

[JULY 5, 2001]   The Frugal Gambler." Jean Scott, Huntington Press, reprinted 2001, 240 pages.

Called the "queen of casino comps" by the new program "48 Hours" on CBS, Jean Scott is one of America’s most renowned "low rollers" and the author of "The Frugal Gambler." In her book she reveals the secrets for beating the odds at casinos, securing free lodging and meals, and how to take advantage of the myriad of services and perks offered to gamblers.


How did she become so proficient at "beating the house?" According to Scott, "Playing games has always been in my blood…to this day I remember the intense feeling of competitiveness I had as a child." This combination of gaming savvy and taking advantage of the complimentary deals (comps) offered has earned Scott the title "Queen of the Ku Pon" from the Las Vegas Advisor.

In the chapter "Slot Machines — Handle With Care," she emphasizes that you must first learn how to "read" the machines (gather information about the machines); another strategy involves going after the odds in small pot payoffs or long shots.

"Video Poker — The Meat and Potatoes" is the game of choice for Scott. Although Jacks or better is the basic video poker game, Deuces-wild is her favorite because "this is where the money is." The big secret in video poker is to find an "over 100% machine"; in other words a machine that pays back more than you put in.


The gaming experience is not limited to gambling in the casinos. Scott devotes a substantial amount of the book to the specials, offers and perks available to gamers. The chapters "Comps — Your Just Desserts," "Promotions — Casino Gravy" and "The Bump — Airline Comps" all reveal Scott’s secrets for uncovering the best deals and hidden bonuses for the gambler. Aside from the most common comp, free drinks, Scott describes how gamers can receive complimentary tickets for food, lodging, shows, gifts and gaming privileges. One caveat in earning comps: Never bet more than you ordinarily would just to get a comp.

According to Scott a little investigative work can provide a wealth of information on the casino’s promotions. Sources include the local newspapers, tourist magazines, casino marquees, in-house advertising and local contacts.


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An easy way to accumulate free airline tickets, expensive meals and luxurious accommodations is to participate in the airline "bump" (changing your plans when an flight is overbooked). The secret is to plan ahead on getting bumped; that is, to include a bump in your travel itinerary so you can take advantage of the airlines’ generosity in accommodating your travel plans.

Other chapters discuss ethics in gambling and how to enjoy yourself in Las Vegas away from the gaming life.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter is "Raining on the Casino’s Parade," in which Scott identifies and explains the seven myths associated with casinos. They are:

1.  Casinos will always make a big effort to get your business.

2.  Casinos want your name and address for devious purposes.

3.  Casinos are apt to offer comps without being asked.

4.  Casinos cater more to table players than to slot players.

5.  All casino personnel know everything there is to know about gambling.

6.  People who play a lot, especially locals, are knowledgeable about gambling.

7.  Anyone who writes about gambling is an expert and can be counted on to give 100 percent accurate gaming advice.

"The Frugal Gambler" is an interesting, time-tested approach to the gaming experience. It is apparent that Jean Scott has spent considerable time and energy developing her theories and techniques on gambling and casinos. The book contains a useful appendix on resources for the gambler (trade papers, books, guides, software and websites); there’s also a handy index. "The Frugal Gambler" is recommended to anyone interested in gambling, casino vacations or simply learning how to "beat the house."

For more information visit the library at 725 Pekin St. or call (217) 732-8878.

[Richard Sumrall, Lincoln Public Library District]

‘The Contender’

Released on video Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Rated R     Approx 127 Minutes     DreamWorks Home Entertainment -2000

Written and directed by Rod Lurie


Jeff Bridges

Christian Slater

Sam Elliot

Joan Allen

Gary Oldman (also the executive producer)


This movie uses graphic language to describe sexual scenes and presents some nudity.

[MARCH 10, 2001]  The box said “two thumbs up” and “Thriller!”

In recent years, the "two thumbs up" endorsement has meant that I probably was going to find the movie to be a loser. "Thriller" usually means I may endure it but I’m probably not going to be thrilled with it.

However, in the case of "The Contender," both my thumbs are up too, and I am indeed thrilled.

"The Contender" is a gritty movie, a political "action" film of sorts. It is a thriller because you don’t have a clear shot at the plot until it is finally revealed for you. At the end, you look back on the film and say, "Yeah, I should’ve seen that coming."

"The Contender" is gritty because it focuses on a dirty fight between political rivals to appoint a new vice president of the United States. The president (played very aptly by Jeff Bridges) selects a woman, Sen. Lane Hanson of Ohio (Joan Allen), for the job, against the advice of party officials and his own advisers. The previous vice president died somehow in office — but "The Contender" never tries to explain his passing.

The whole plot is wrapped up in the confirmation hearings and the process of bringing an appointee to office or sending ’em off packing.

Gary Oldman plays Sheldon Runyon, the Republican chairman of the selection committee. The highly respected, powerful senator seems bent on not only denying the president his day in the sun but also destroying the very career of Sen. Hanson.


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Two things about this movie made a good impression on me.

First, the acting was excellent. Oldman plays a perfect bad guy in this film (he seems to have the bad-guy act down pat). Jeff Bridges, who I thought incapable of playing a convincing president, stepped up to the plate and delivered. Christian Slater played the part of a freshman congressman who was seeking to do the right thing on principle, and was perfectly cast for the part. Finally, Joan Allen was wonderful in her portrayal of the contender under siege.

Second, the plot was dynamite. This movie seems to make you move away from certain characters and make certain assumptions, but you find yourself making a couple of 90 degree turns before it’s done. In the spirit of "The West Wing," it is full of political intrigue and the power of the Washington scene. "The Contender" is a film about respect and dignity and the rocky road to realizing those two values.

The first hour of the movie has a single weakness: The lack of actors on the set portraying political operatives, appointees, devotees and those holding office makes you believe the story less. They needed a fuller cast to make it seem like Washington and government.

This is not a partisan film about the usual struggle between Republicans and Democrats. Instead it is a story about the dynamics of power, accusation and truth.

So, I recommend this film to you if you enjoy a good thriller, if you enjoy stories about the political struggles of this nation and if you like a good fiction about how truth prevails.

I give it 3½ stars (out of five).


Haiku translators, including local expert, present readings this week

[JULY 2, 2001]  Emiko Miyashita and Lee Gurga’s translation of "Einstein’s Century: Akito Arima’s Haiku," has just been released by the publisher, Brooks Books. The translators, haiku poets Emiko Miyashita of Kawasaki City, Japan, and Lee Gurga of Lincoln, will present selections from Dr. Arima’s poetry at a reading tonight, Monday, July 2, hosted in Decatur by the Highway 51 Poetry Project. Akito Arima is one of Japan’s leading haiku masters.

Reading, poetry and haiku lovers can meet at 7 p.m. in the cafe at the new Anthology Booksellers located at Franklin and East Main (above the Decatur Public Library in the old Sears building). Parking is available on East Main and in the library parking lot.

"A lot of people write poetry without ever intending to share it, but the act of writing, even though it is usually a solitary act, inherently assumes an audience," said Scott Goebel, the emcee and organizer of the Highway 51 Poetry Project. He encourages writers and lovers of poetry and fiction as well as curious onlookers to come out and see what the coffeehouse poetry phenomenon is all about. The poetry project plans to continue readings on the first Monday of every month

Comments from the introduction to
Dr. Akito Arima’s "Einstein’s Century"

"One is immediately struck by the openness of Dr. Arima’s face, his almost childlike curiosity about everything around him." — Gurga and Miyashita


"Many of the haiku here contain religious imagery. Not the Buddha’s and Patriarchs one might expect of a poetic form associated so strongly with Zen Buddhism, but Christian imagery. Dr. Arima presents these images to us with a freshness that might be impossible for those of us who grew up surrounded by these images multiplied over two thousand years. He demonstrates that religious topics can be a viable element of contemporary poetry without having to assume the extreme postures of excessive piety on one hand or irony on the other. Come and see the face of the Virgin Mary or the long nose of Jesus with a fresh eye and an open heart, presented by Dr. Arima with haiku vision of the human world as it truly is: a world of spirit that is nevertheless always at one with the world we see and hear around us. Yes, the prophesies of doom in the Old Testament are here, but in the haiku way mellowed and refreshed with snowmelt from Mt. Sinai. We believe you will be amply rewarded for your leap of faith." — Gurga and Miyashita

About Akito Arima

"A member of the House of Councilors, Japan equivalent to the U.S. Senate, Dr. Arima continues to serve both science and Japan rising international consciousness by bringing the knowledge gained in his years of scientific and poetic work to bear on the problems of the new century. He understands the necessity for international unity in the face of dwindling natural resources and increased environmental destruction, growing human population and energy demands, the need for global sustainability, and the continuing threat of nuclear weapons. He stands at the forefront of those attempting to build an international consensus aimed at securing the future of humanity and the very life of the planet...

"While Dr. Arima was pursuing his dual career as a world-class nuclear physicist and internationally recognized educational administrator, he also became an outstanding leader among Japan haiku poets and a great supporter of haiku worldwide. His haiku mentor was Seison Yamaguchi (1892-1988), one of the important disciples of Kyoshi Takahama who helped carry the tradition of haiku into the modern world. Seison dual life as professor of engineering and haiku master may have provided a role model for the younger poet-scientist." — William J. Higginson (from the introduction to "Einstein's Century")


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About the translators

Lee Gurga was born and raised in Chicago. He is a past president of the Haiku Society of America and is currently associate editor of the journal Modern Haiku and the haiku selector for the Illinois Times in Springfield and Solares Hill in Key West, Fla. His haiku have won the top prize in haiku contests in the United States, Canada and Japan. His books "In and Out of Fog" and "Fresh Scent" were both awarded the first prize in the Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards. He was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Poetry Fellowship in 1998 for his work in haiku. He lives with his family in rural Lincoln.

Emiko Miyashita was born in Fukushima (Happy Island) city in Japan on Sept. 6, 1954. The city is surrounded by the mountains that change their expressions delicately, according to seasons and the time of the day. Emiko now owns a studio on this mountainside. It was her father's oil painting studio. With her, he planted many young trees in its garden. Currently she lives with her family in Kawasaki City. She has also lived in Urbana (1959-61) and in Accra, Ghana (1969-71), where she was exposed to English language and its culture. She graduated from Doshisha University in Kyoto in 1978. She joined the Ten'i (Providence) haiku group led by Dr. Akito Arima in 1993 and became its dojin (leading member) in 1999. She is writing a series featuring English haiku in HAIKUKAI (Haiku World) magazine, published monthly in Japan. She is a member of International Haiku Association (Japan) and Haiku Society of America.


Lee Gurga and she have been working together as a translating team since 1997. In 2000 they published "Love Haiku: Masajo Suzuki's Lifetime of Love" through Brooks Books.

Haiku reading on Thursday, July 5, at 7 p.m.

They will be reading from "Love Haiku: Masajo Suzuki’s Lifetime of Love" at Barnes and Noble, 3111 South Veterans Parkway in Springfield at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 5. Masajo Suzuki’s lyrical evocation of her unconventional lifestyle in haiku poetry has caught the imagination of the Japanese public. There will be a book signing after the reading.

[News release]

New arts group re-examines
bylaws, seeks logo entries

[JUNE 21, 2001]  The newly formed Logan County Arts Association, meeting on Monday at Lincoln Public Library, set up a logo contest, continued to examine its proposed constitution and named possible early projects.

Local artists are asked to submit logo designs that include the name of the organization, Logan County Arts Association, and reflect its mission: "To enhance the quality of life by actively promoting arts dissemination, thereby making the arts an integral component of life in our community and the surrounding area." Designs must be submitted by July 16 to Logan County Arts Association in care of Lincoln-Logan County Chamber of Commerce, 303 S. Kickapoo, Lincoln. The winning logo will be used by the association.

One constitutional issue the group discussed was a privacy statement composed by Marshall Jacobs, acting president. The proposed addition to the constitution and bylaws was modeled on the privacy statement of the European Union and designed to set policy concerning personal information of people who will eventually become part of the organization’s database. The statement, which is more technical than the rest of the constitution, says there will be no unauthorized exchange of private information and, according to Jacobs, covers the association in situations that may arise years from now.

Jacobs said one underutilized program of the Illinois Arts Council supports arts education in schools, and he plans to contact county visual and musical arts teachers early in August to learn about their programs and needs. He hopes to locate possibilities for grants in time to get into the 2002 funding cycle for organizations and schools.


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Larry Steffens, a founding director of the association, recommended that the group undertake a visible project this summer, even before the constitution and other paperwork are finalized, to become an active force in the community. He suggested redesigning and painting the "O Lincoln" mural on the side of McEntire’s Home Appliance and TV at 403 Broadway.

Despite its name, the Logan County Arts Association does not limit its mission to Logan County. Jacobs said that virtually all surrounding counties have arts councils that help local arts organizations find grants and sometimes conduct arts programs. He described Logan County as "the hole in the donut" of surrounding associations; another hole is DeWitt County, which Jacobs hopes may join the Logan association. If that occurs, a name change is possible.

The Logan County Arts Association, officially incorporated on June 8, is seeking not-for-profit status. Six people attended the June 18 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Lincoln Public Library. The next meeting is planned for July 16 at the same time and place.

The association plans to contact potential members through Lincoln Community Theatre and Art Fair promotions.

[Lynn Spellman]

39 get roles in LCT’s ‘Tom Sawyer’

[MAY 4, 2001]  Sixty-seven young people from second through 12th grades auditioned for Lincoln Community Theatre's upcoming children’s play. Thirty-nine have been cast in what promises to be a delightful rendition of "Tom Sawyer." Performances will be at 7 p.m. June 28 and 29 and at 2 p.m. June 30 and July 1 at the Johnston Center on the Lincoln College campus.

Cast / Characters

Alison Maske of Mount Pulaski — Susan Harper, school girl

Gracie Wood of Lincoln — Gracie Miller, school girl

Brian Welter of Lincoln — Muff Potter, town derelict

Joe Allspach of Mount Pulaski — Sheriff

Anthony Jones of Hartsburg — Injun Joe (dangerous)

Tom Swanson of Lincoln — Doc Robinson, young surgeon

Kaitlyn Przykopanski of Mount Pulaski — Mrs. Walters, Sunday School superintendent

Holly Phillips of Lincoln — Widow Douglas, Aunt Polly's friend 

Julie Wood of Lincoln — Mrs. Harper, Joe's mother 


Brianna Skaggs of Mason City — Amy Lawrence, school girl 

Kelly Dowling of Lincoln — Aunt Polly, Tom's aunt 

Ben Herrington-Gilmore of Lincoln — Tom Sawyer (always in trouble)

Spencer Harris of Lincoln — Huck Finn, Tom's friend (a free spirit)

Alison Kessinger of Lincoln — Cousin Mary, Tom's relative 

Doug Rohrer of Lincoln — Judge Thatcher (new in town) 

Emili Moneyhun of Lincoln — Mrs. Thatcher, the judge’s wife 


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Molly Mathewson of Athens — Becky Thatcher, daughter of Judge and Mrs. Thatcher

Shelby Voyles of Lincoln — Sally, school girl

Payton McVey of Atlanta — Ben Rogers, town boy 

Max Pozsqai of Lincoln — Joe Harper, town boy

Corey Moynahan of Sherman — Alfred Temple, town boy 

Nathaniel King of Lincoln — Mr. Dobbins, schoolmaster 

Patrick Perry of Lincoln — Reverend Sprague, minister 


Emily Berglin, Taylor Berglin, Tony Curcuru, Kelsey Dallas, Nettie Duncan, Stephen Duncan, Greg Gandenberger, Luke Hanger, Katy Reynolds, Moses Rogers and Todd Schumacher, all of Lincoln; Joel Rankin of Mount Pulaski; Jillian Nichole Dowell of Kenney; Darci Dixon of Athens; Tanner Milan of Sherman; and Emma Jo Schumacher of Springfield

Coleen McLaughlin-Moore is the director, Miranda Stone is technical director, and Rachel Washam is audiovisual technician.

The local production of "Tom Sawyer," by Tim Kelly, is presented by special arrangement with publisher IE Clark.

For more information see the LCT website,


Lincoln Community Theatre website

Lincoln Community Theatre’s (LCT) website is up and available. The site serves a number of functions, from providing information on becoming a season ticket holder to showing what new productions are being planned. Pictures from last season's productions are also posted.

If you are interested in joining a performance or just going to see one, visit LCT’s website at, e-mail LCT at, or write to Lincoln Community Theatre, P.O. Box 374, Lincoln, IL  62656.


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