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Remembering the Coffee Houses
Thanks to Job Conger for the pictures. Thanks to everyone you see here and many more for some wonderful memories!

In a nutshell: sixth grade: Mom and Dad gave me a $15 guitar that it took me forever to learn how to play. Not until Mom brought home some Mel Bay self-instruction books did I learn a first chord. Thanks to my two-year-older neighbor Bill Wilson, I learned a little more and by Ninth Grade, I knew enough to play three songs in Mr. Nika's music class at Ben Franklin Jr. High School. I learned more in high school. When I was a senior, Jim Richardson, Carl Musson, Steve Baker and I formed a folk group and were scheduled to play at the high school talent show. I got sick, dropped out of the group and was not on stage with them the night of the big show. Jim, a young lady whose name I cannot remember formed a new folk group after graduating high school. We played at least three dates: an event in the Washington Park Pavillion and a folk festival at the Old State Capitol Building before it was extensively renovated, and a variety show in the gymnasium at Springfield Junior College in 1966. It was all great fun.

In August 1967, I had been playing guitar about three years and was looking forward to returning to Springfield Junior College after dropping out second semester of my first try with a serious case of infectious mononucleosis, which we all called "mono" for short. I had moved out of my parents house because I didn't like their perpetual bickering and was living in an apartment just south of South Grand on Fifth Street and working in the camera department at Goldblatts, an anchor store in Town & Country Shopping Center where Burlington Coat Factory is today.  Dale Neal, a friend who had heard me play guitar at my MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) group came by the store one night and told me about a new coffeehouse where people were playing guitar and invited me to come down. So I did. They were open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and after my first visit there, I returned and played every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night they were open, which was not long. It was one of the longest, sustained tranquil and rewarding periods in my life. I had just purchased my first 35mm camera, and took it to Something Else only once, when I took these pictures.

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When I saw the picture above in the October 16, 1977 State Journal-Register I clipped it because of the memories of what happened up that flight of steps on Capitol (going off to your right) and in the game room that looked out of the sidewalk just above the NO PARKING sign in the lower left of the picture. Dick Binetsch, the photographer was a friend of mine in his later years.

These pictures are thumbnailed for faster loading. Click on any for a larger image and "Back" to return to the smaller view. Feel free to copy these. For larger, higher resolution pictures for a nominal fee to cover my costs, write me at

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1. Looking from the sidewalk into the game room, the first room on your right after you walked up the flight of stairs from the sidewalk. Walking the length of the place, all additional rooms were on the right. After the game room came the art gallery, the kitchen, which fronted the hall, a graffiti room where visitors were encouraged to write on the walls, and finally the performance room, largest room of all, in the back.
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2. Marita Stankitis played and sang often at Something Else. I knew her as a kid from Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girls high school near Griffin High, an all-boys high school. Marita had a way of belting out a ballad like no other female vocalist I met during that era. She was Springfield's parallel Janis Ian, and as I was belting out Stagolee and Blowin' In the Wind at the drop of a hat, Marita did the same with Society's Child. 
     A few years ago, I was sitting at a table at Capitol Caffe on Sixth Street -- by any measure the best coffeehouse ever operated in Springfield -- when she came up to me after not seeing me since 1967. We had a great conversation, and she departed with a copy of my poetry book Minstrel's Ramble. She has recorded one CD and has a book of poetry in the works. To read a review of her CD click here

There was always something going on at Something Else, and I rushed there every night it was open after working at Goldblatt's and hung out. This is where I met Glenna Kniss, Springfield's answer to Judy Collins, and several male folk singers and fans, most of whose names I no longer remember.

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3. Looking into the kitchen where we could buy coffee, baked goods and soft drinks.
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4. One of the convivial people in the kitchen.
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5. The crowd was diverse and incredibly convivial. I don't remember this fellow's name. We could be different and still like each other. Not everyone played and sang. There were rumors of people doing drugs or selling them there, and yes, the place was busted by local police once, but I wasn't involved. I arrived as they were finishing up the investigation.

If you recognize the people in these pictures, please share their names with me by writing  I will add your memories to this page.

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6. Dale Neal plays guitar in the game room. In 2004, I was practicing guitar on my front porch, accompanied by a tall glass of iced tea when he walked over and re-introduced himself! I had purchased a house two doors east of where he and his brother John grew up, and he was visiting his parents who still lived in his childhood home. His parents are now living in an assisted living facility, and their house will soon be on the market.
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7. This shows the problem with pictures taken with flash bulbs by a neophyte camera guy who didn't know what the hey he was doing. The fellow in the left foreground is another folksinger and nice guy: John Stasukenis, or "Stas'" for short. He was a good guy. We've seen each other a few times over the years, but have never said more than "how's it goin' - Fine - see ya" and I guess that's just the way is has to be in these modrun times.
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8. The fellow on the left is "Father Gus" who was a nice fellow who played a large role in getting The Stove Pipe coffeehouse going. He was a regular visitor at Something Else.

A coffee house (I can't remember its name) in the basement of the church on the southwest corner of College at Monroe (subsequently torn down and reborn as a parking lot) was popular with younger kids, among them Dale Neal. In a flash of mischief which was totally unlike me, I pulled something of a prank on them. Arriving early, I noticed the donuts they were selling were priced far below what it had cost them. With something approaching a twinkle in my eye, I bought the entire box, departed the place in a hurry as some of the honchos there watched their evening's donuts leave the premisis, and hurried down to the Something Else where I sold the donuts to them for exactly the price I had paid at the other place. This resulted in my being considered "personna non grata" at the church place, but that was okay. I was more comfortable with the older folks.

The other coffee house I frequented, The Stovepipe, was in the top floor of the Episcopal Church which is  there today on the southwest corner of Second at Lawrence. People parked in the parking just to the south of the church, entering and departing parking from Lawrence and Second. Access to the coffeehouse was up a long steel staircase on the outside of the structure facing the south. Inside it was a revamped basketball court if I remember correctly. Father Gus was a major leader there; so was an older gentleman, an official of the church, who had a very pretty daughter whose voice and talent for song was matched only by her good looks. We somehow got together long enough to play for a convention at Holiday Inn East. It was my only duo appearance, but it was great fun. I don't remember what happened to The Stovepipe, but it was great fun while it lasted.

After the Something Else closed, Sangamon State University established Rudolph's Bean on Capitol between Sixth and Seventh Streets. I visited once, but never played there.

Another coffee house The Lighter Side of Darkness was the longest lasting establishment of its kind in Sprinfield's history I believe. It was located next to Prairie Archives, a new used book store on the north side of Monroe, close to Walnut. Soon after it started, I played there solo a few times. While there, I met a student at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. He wanted to form a folk group. I drove over and visited him in his dorm room, and we arranged a first practice session. At that first get together, he introduced me to a friend of his who was going to be the group's drummer. It took about three bars of a first tune to convince me that I didn't want to be part of a folk group that had a drummer with a rig as big as Buddy Rich or Barret Deems. That was my brush with intercity folk consortia. The Lighter Side of Darkness (LSD for short; get it? Har har har) later became a "Christian" coffee house, and I lost interest in folk music for a few decades.

I was too busy having fun to take more pictures. In those days I wore my guitar the way I wear my camera today.  Given my druthers; I'd still rather be wearing my guitar.

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9. During this time, I changed apartments, moving to a place on Seventh Street about where the relocated Elijah Iles House is today, and employers when I became camera department manager at K-Mart downtown. About that time I met Ralph and Linda, shown here in the art gallery. Ralph and Linda knew Nancy Harris (whom I had known in high school) and she met Roger Legg who played guitar at Something Else. The five of us did a lot of partying together, even went up to Chicago for a few days.
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10. Two Dans if I remember correctly. Dan on left was passing through Springfield on his way to Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. He told me Springfield was a way station for people transiting west and east because it was easy to find a place to stay and marijuana or other illegal chemicals to ease the journey. Dan left was in Springfield about a month, and was an interesting fellow. Dan on right is Dan Davis, a friend from junior high and high and MYF. An interesting fellow in his own right. Where are these gentlemen today?
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11. Dan Davis in front, was having fun with an extended finger. Marita Stankitis was taking a break from singing, and Nick in the back was the founder/prime organizer of the Something Else Coffee House. I understand from Marita that Nick is a pastor in Hawaii.
   - Nick, if you read this, please write and let me know how life goes in your part of the world!

They were paradise times, though we didn't appreciate it at the moment. A few weeks after these pictures were taken, I broke my left foot when walking back to my place from Roger Legg's apartment and  jumping a corner at Eighth at Cook. I moved back home, and thanks to a new girlfriend, Carole King, last known address: Golden, Colorado I enrolled at MacMurray College in Jacksonville and took a few steps up the ladder to semi-oblivion.

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12. Philosopher Dan.
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13. Here he is again. He was an excellent thinker and a nice guy.
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14. The fellow on the far left is "Black Ralph" who went through lots of treatment and rehab and re-surfaced during my time hosting an open mic at Capitol Caffe in 1998 at "Cat Ralph." Standing next to him is Philosopher Dan and some other regulars.
jobn1969.jpg (15088 bytes) So I just found a picture of me about the same time as the coffeehouse action. I was attending an art fair when this picture was taken. Seeing this picture led me to shave off my mustache on Thanksgiving 2004 to see if I could capture some of my boyitch good looks. Gotta tell you: it didn't work. But I'm determined to live the rest of my life sans facial hair.  The more I think about it, I had more of a love life without mustaches and beards than I had with them. And I can't think of a better reason to shave regularly than that!
Here I am at Barnes & Noble Springfield a few years ago. I've also played -- thanks to Dave Bishop -- Barnes & Noble Kankakee (no sign of Arlo Guthrie OR a train) and lots of elsewheres. About the only place I've not yet played is the place YOU invite me to play. In case I didn't mention before, you can reach me at 217-544-6122 and Jobsing1W.jpg (28703 bytes)

I WISH I  had taken more pictures of this place and the people. If you have pictures from your times there that you can loan me to scan, please share them with me, and we'll add them to this site.

And for the record, the humbule photographer/writer is still playing guitar and singing The Times They are a Changing, Motorpsycho Nightmare, If I had a Hammer, Puff, the Magic Dragon and writing songs like All Over but the Shouting, The Mashed Potato Song, The Preposition Song, Bird Crap, Oh What Fun It is to Ride, Bullet In the Back, Cameron Do-Well and much more. If you live in the Springfield area and you're as bright as I hope you are, invite me to you play and sing acoustically at your next party or special event. I don't provide background music, but if people want to listen, I want to play. Want to know more? Write me -- or call me: 217-544-6122  

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Last modified: January 10, 2005