By Jared Olar
Recent visitors to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room will have noticed the new exhibit of labor union mementos, photographs and artifacts in the history room’s display case, which was featured in a slideshow here late last month.
The items on display were provided by Laura Nickels, financial secretary/treasurer of the United Steelworkers Local 7662 in Pekin. Recently, Nickels and others in the Pekin Local went through their historical files and gathered the artifacts and photographs together. Individuals in the old photographs were identified by Hoss Richardson, Ben Richardson, and Jim Hermman.
The Pekin local, whose members worked at the old Corn Products plant (now Aventine), formerly was affiliated with the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW), then became a part of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) after OCAW merged with the United Paperworkers in 1999. PACE merged with the United Steelworkers of America in 2005, forming the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied-Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW). But all along, the Pekin local retained its number of 7662, Nickels says.
Many of the displayed photographs are group pictures of the local’s officers dating back to the 1950s, while others come from union meetings and conventions in other states. Some of the photos are of union events and parties at the former union hall that was located at the southeast corner of Derby and South Seventh Street. The hall afterwards was used as a banquet hall by Ernie’s Family Restaurant, but later was demolished, and the land is now parking for Ernie’s.
The Local History Room display also includes old union patches, a PACE cap, and copies of union constitutions. The exhibit will be on display through the end of September.
Shown are past officers of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, Pekin Local 7662. Pictured are (back row, left to right) Howard Lisenbee, Cliff Groegin, Marvin Webb, Lyndel Hurt, Archie Mangold Jr., Leo Swisher, Jerry Hoyle, Terry Tomlinson, (front row) Cliff Denning, Willie Long, Bob Meskimen, Jim Taylor, Bob Collins, Melvin Schoonover, and George Wubben. PHOTO COURTESY OF LAURIE NICKELS AND UNITED STEELWORKERS LOCAL 7662