Will it Play in Peoria?

Dating from the vaudeville era (1880s-1930s), the phrase “Will it Play in Peoria?” is pretty common (the link gives its storied history in advertising, test marketing of new products, and politics). Its basic meaning is “will it work in the heartland?” McDonald’s test marketed their McRib sandwich there. So were Pampers and New Coke. It’s inexpensive to saturate local TV stations with ads. In the early 1970s, John Ehrlichman in the Nixon White House was credited with reviving the popularity of the phrase with his comment, “How is this going to play in Peoria?”

 

One of my coworkers had not heard of this expression during Take our Daughters and Sons to Work day. (Never thought I’d be promoting something started by Gloria Steinem, but on its tenth anniversary in 2002 Take our Daughters to Work broadened its appeal by including boys.) Mentoring is valuable, whether it’s parents giving their young children a vision for the future, or experienced workers mentoring newer people.

 

My coworker will be taking his daughter to a gymnastics competition in Peoria, so I said I’d post some sightseeing information for him and his family. Of course, it is possible to find out pretty easily what to do during free time by just Googling “Top Ten Things to do in Peoria.” A whole screen full of options shows up for the visitor to choose from according to his/her taste, so why bother writing or reading this article? It helps to have opinions from someone who has traveled there or better yet, who has lived there and enjoyed it.

 

Caterpillar, Peoria’s major employer, has lost sales and employment in recent years, and recently made plans to move its global headquarters to the Chicago area. No doubt this is unpopular with Peoria residents who will be subjected to “I’m from Headquarters, I’m here to help” from someone who doesn’t even live in their city. Companies like General Electric and DuPont have grown with far-flung operations beyond their original headquarters, but it seems a bit risky to me for a company like Caterpillar, John Deere or Cummins to relocate its headquarters to a more cosmopolitan area. GM recently moved Cadillac headquarters to New York City but these are marketing and business people for the brand. Top corporate management has stayed in the metro Detroit area, home to its engineering and manufacturing expertise.

My favorites from Peoria’s Top 15 list would be the Peoria Riverfront Museum, which has a variety of art and science exhibits, The Spirit of Peoria,  an authentic paddlewheel-driven riverboat, the Caterpillar Visitors Center. For nature-lovers there is the George L. Luthy Memorial Botanical Garden, and hiking at the Forest Park Nature Center. Families would enjoy the Peoria Zoo and the Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum.

 

The 2.5 mile long Grandview Drive is also worth a detour while driving to or from the city. Constructed in 1903 and referred to as the “world’s most beautiful drive” by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1910, it offers visitors scenic views of the Illinois River Valley and the chance to view many historic homes lining it. Grand View Drive is the only linear park on the National Historic Register. When driving into Peoria in the early 1980s, I used to shut off the engine on the highway and coast down the hill to the river, a ~5% grade, to save gas. Modern cars shut off the fuel now so this is not necessary.

 

Bicycle enthusiasts can join up with the Illinois Valley Wheelm’n on weekly local training rides in the surrounding area. This club is still quite active; I wore one of their yellow T-shirts on my 1981 tour of Europe. (I took two other T-shirts also and alternated wearing them, but that’s for another series of articles about bicycle touring.)

 

Personally I would make a point of visiting the First United Methodist Church with its pipe organ and faithful preaching of the gospel in the Wesleyan tradition. My faith in Jesus Christ went from black and white to color while attending this downtown church as a Caterpillar cooperative engineering student in the summer of 1982. But that is a topic for another blog article. Their ministry has expanded to include a bi-lingual service on Saturday evenings for the Spanish-speaking community led by two Latino pastors.

 

People have different preferences about where to live. The general trend has been away from farming communities towards bigger cities. Some people prefer medium size cities like Peoria and Lafayette, Indiana. Outdoor enthusiasts can find activities without driving a long ways. Cities with universities are especially appealing. With today’s modern shipping methods, perhaps there will be a trend towards smaller towns again.

 

We came across a vegetable packing factory in west Michigan that had its truck drivers living in that small town making deliveries to grocery chains with the chance to be home every night. As people become more interested in sustainable agriculture and buying locally grown foods, perhaps our small towns and rural areas will be repopulated. Owosso, Michigan had a magazine article written about it recently. The article describes the history and resurgence of this small town in mid-Michigan.

 

So did this article “play in Peoria” for you? Hopefully there’s something of interest in these articles to hold you for the 5-15 minutes it takes to read them and follow some of the links. Most of you will never visit Peoria and couldn’t care less about this small Midwestern city or whether its major industry thrives or withers. But if you drive on roads you benefit from the hard work of the people who live and work there making earthmoving equipment. Hopefully others found some of the ideas interesting, and my loyal critics found something to throw rocks at, so my couple of hours preparing it was not in vain. :-)

 

Other articles

 

In previous blog posts, I began telling the story of my brain tumor and the depression which followed it. The second article in the series described my faith in God which sustained me through both trials.

 

Having recently started a word-by-word translation of Martin Luther’s Bible from German to English, I introduced the project and published Matthew Chapter 1 . Later I wrote commentary on it; my church background and theological training is in my USA Melting Pot bio.

 

Dale Murrish writes on historytraveltechnologyreligion and politics for the Troy Patch and USA Melting Pot club. You can help this non-profit club by making your Amazon purchases through the link on the left side of their website. You can also see over a dozen ethnic presentations from people with firsthand knowledge under Culture & Country (right hand side), and outdoor presentations (Hobby & Fun), including posts on bicycling, skiing and camping.

 

Other interesting articles on the USA Melting Pot website have been written by Bilal Rathur on his hajj to Saudi Arabia (Part 6) and by Carl Petersen. Thanks to both of them for their contributions.

Comments

Dino Manalis Added May 8, 2017 - 3:25pm
That's why political polls should not only carried out in America's cities, but also the heartland for a fuller representation of the country's public opinion.  Cities; suburbs; and rural areas have to be included in all polls.
Patrick Writes Added May 8, 2017 - 3:52pm
I was born in Peoria, lived in neighboring Pekin, Illinois until I was 7. 
 
In the 70's and 80's was a pretty good place to live. In 1985, Caterpillar did some major layoffs which hurt the whole area pretty badly. We moved in 1985 but went back to visit all during the late 80's and 90's. 
 
The Peoria Riverfront is nice. They sometimes have a summer festival with a local band down there. 
 
The 'Julia Belle Swain' was a restored Riverboat that used to be located there, that took trips out onto the River. But looks like they upgraded to the 'Spirit of Peoria'. 
 
There's always Steak n' Shake.
Patrick Writes Added May 8, 2017 - 3:55pm
Funny, but I never heard the saying "Will it play in Peoria" until years after we moved away. 
 
After I Googled it, yeah, sounds like it goes back a century or more. 
Jeffry Gilbert Added May 8, 2017 - 6:28pm
So did this article “play in Peoria” for you?
 
Nope. The boosterism for a dying town in a dying country is very sad. Like the Grady Squash Festival. 
Dale Murrish Added May 9, 2017 - 3:53pm
Sorry you didn't like it Jeffry. Hope you like wherever you are living better. Where is that, by the way?
Dale Murrish Added May 9, 2017 - 4:49pm
I remember it being called the "Julia Belle Swain" now that you mention it, Patrick. I've been back a few times since 1982 but not recently, so I"m interested in hearing a first hand report from my coworker. 

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