EIGHINGER: Constant research reveals rich heritage of Illinois

Posted: Nov. 10, 2012 8:01 pm Updated: Dec. 9, 2012 12:15 am

Even though I have lived in Illinois for more than 14 years, I have come to realize there remains plenty to learn about the place I now call home. The reporter inside me creates a need to constantly research the rich heritage of our state.

And the term "heritage," of course, comes with a wink. Here are some of my latest finds:

º The world's largest cookie and cracker factory, where Nabisco made 16 billion Oreo cookies one year, is in Chicago. (That is staggering, and I don't even care for Oreos.)

º Des Plaines is home to the first franchised McDonald's restaurant, which opened in 1955. (Believe me, I will brag about this to friends back in Ohio. Hamburgers back then sold for 15 cents. Cheeseburgers were 19 cents, and milkshakes were 20 cents. So ... I could be full for 54 cents in 1955? If my math is right, I think a hamburger, cheeseburger and milkshake today would cost about $5.)

º The slogan of a classic rock radio station in Chicago was once, "Of all the radio stations in Chicago ... we're one of them." (For some reason, I find this hysterical.)

º There is a $1,000 dollar fine in many Illinois towns for beating rats with baseball bats. (I'm guessing the intent of this law was not to damage a Louisville Slugger. I can't imagine anyone being worried about rats. And I think the rhyme was unintentional.)

º In 1905, the president of the Chicago Cubs filed charges against a fan in the bleachers for catching a fly ball and keeping it. (OK Cardinals fans, this one's for you.)

º Illinois boasts the highest number of personalized license plates of any of the 50 states. (I noticed this phenomenon shortly after I moved here back in 1998. I find it incredibly fascinating. For the better part of my 14-plus years here, I have been vowing to get my own vanity plate, but have not followed through -- yet.)

º The ice cream "sundae" was named in Evanston. (There's a long story behind it, which is mostly irrelevant. Just be grateful for the guy who came up with the idea. My waistline certainly is.)

º In 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the Ferris wheel debuted. (Let me say for the record, one of my phobias deals with height, so I'm obviously not a big fan of the big wheel. I got stuck at the top of one as a child and was scarred for life.)

º Couch potatoes can thank Chicago because the remote control was invented there in 1950. (Did you just hear that angelic chorus, or was it just me? I can hardly remember the Stone Age when you had to physically get out of the recliner and change the TV channels.)

º The Twinkie was invented in Chicago in 1930. (This is more important to some than others. Personally, I'm a Ho-Ho guy. But I do like those raspberry Zingers with the coconut, which I think are nothing more than Twinkies all dressed up.)

º About 10 percent of Illinois' economy is based on the production of various corn products. The other 90 percent consists of official "Just wait 'til next year!" Chicago Cubs merchandise. (Just kidding on this one. Sorry about that, Cubs fans.)




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