Phil Luciano: Salty Sam mania hits Peoria

Phil Luciano

Happy Friday: two columns for the price of one.

Salt of the earth

It's been Salty Sam mania here for two days.

My phone has been blowing up since Wednesday's column about the lack of a tombstone at the Springdale Cemetery grave site of the Peoria TV icon. George Baseleon, who died in 1985, played the first mate on the beloved "Captain Jinks Show" from 1956 to 1972.

A flat stone would run just $350 or so, while a more elaborate memorial would cost whatever folks want to pay. I mentioned that Pat Lewis, manager at Springdale, is looking for ideas for a fundraiser.

A zillion readers have offered donations right away. One told me this about a fundraiser: "Phil, I wonder if you're not overthinking this. Why not just established an account at a bank and take donations?"

We'll do that. But there's more to this than just money.

Of the many Salty Sam e-mails I got, this is typical: "I watched the Captain and Salty every day. One of my favorite childhood memories is the year I turned 8. The Captain and Salty read my name on the air and wished me a happy birthday."

And I liked this one: "In '67, Salty awarded me a first-place trophy for winning a pie-eating contest at Detweiller Park. It was only 4 inches tall and made of cheap plastic, but I kept it for a long time. I think my mom threw it away."

On and on go these recollections. The "Captain Jinks Show" is a nostalgic touchstone to Peorians of a certain age.

Thus, it would seem a shame to let the opportunity pass to share that fondness. That's why I'm working with some folks to put together a gathering for fans of the program. In part, it would be a fundraiser, perhaps not just for a marker for Salty Sam, but a scholarship in his name. Moreover, the event would serve as a common ground for folks to relive yesteryear.

For those who can't come, we'll also establish a fund for contributions. Details will follow soon.

Olympic gold?

What, exactly, does the Peoria City Council expect to glean from a Chicago Olympics?

During a recent visit here, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley asked Peoria to support the Windy City's bid for the 2016 Games. So this week, the council dutifully voted 10-0 to approve a resolution lauding Chicago's efforts.

I've been warning of Daley's touch for two years. Other Olympic sites have gone into deep debt for the privilege of hosting the Games. Chicago would be no different.

The thing is, you know how this would play out. The rest of the state - that's you, me and the rest of the taxpayers - would end up covering overruns.

The Peoria resolution doesn't do much beyond helping bolster Chicago's portfolio. But it's too bad the resolution didn't say, "Go get 'em, Chi-town - just as long as you pick up the tab yourself."

The council seems excited over the chance that downstate cities might host some events. Maybe that's possible. But don't envision Michael Phelps at the Riverplex or beach volleyball on the riverfront.

Rather, we'd end up hosting something like qualifying rounds for table tennis. Yippee.

Olympic support? It's high risk, low reward - as far as Peoria and Illinois taxpayers are concerned.

Phil Luciano can be reached or (309) 686-3155.