Hollywood close to home
For a winter adventure, visit movie sites in southern Illinois
Tired of the same ol’, same ol’? If so, maybe it is time to rev up your holidays with a bit of Hollywood glamour, southern Illinois style. Southernmost Illinois has a few connections with the big screen that might be just the trip to add a bit of pickup from the winter doldrums. While everyone else is seeking eggnog and a Christmas Carol, you could be seeing where Tommy Lee Jones filmed the movie U.S. Marshalls and glimpse the plane he flew in from an underwater view.
If you are a Super-hero fan, Metropolis, Ill., is the home of Superman, the Superman Museum and the Americana Hollywood museum. Think about the adventures you could have along the Ohio Scenic Byway only three to four hours south.
The first Hollywood connection could be the Bay City General Store & Lodging, on the Ohio River south of Golconda in Pope County. Remember the scene from U.S. Marshalls where the 727 crashes into the Ohio River? That was right across from the Bay City General Store & Lodging. The movie was filmed in 1997 and owner Donna Norton shared a bit of information about the film that put their little burg on the map. “The casting included countless local persons who posed as restaurant employees of Roy Willy’s World’s Best Bar-B-Que, local and state law enforcement and first responders,” she said.
Although visitors often think otherwise, there is no barbecue to be had, but there is RC Cola, Moon Pies and a great variety of antiques and collectibles and a general store restored to all of its 1915 glory. Along with the storefront, there are also a couple rooms above the store where a visitor can stay and have an amazing view of the Ohio River, which is just a stone’s throw away from the parking lot.
This place is a chance to throw away the clock, turn off the cell phone, listen to the sounds of the Shawnee Forest and veg. Besides the room overhead, there is also a cabin next door with room for a family reunion or group to gather for the holidays. Call 618-683-4305 for details.
If you are wondering what happened to that 727 used in U.S. Marshalls, Glen Faith of Mermet Springs can tell you. The plane is in his spring-fed quarry that serves as a scuba diving and training site. Glen, who is an investigator with the Secretary of State Police, received his training on the job. He liked it so well he decided diving was the sport for him, and purchased the quarry with eyes towards creating a southern Illinois dive destination.
A stickler for details Glen said, “I decided if I started this business I would do it right,” Glen said.
This safety-conscious diver and teacher wanted to make his site a fun place to dive and decided that he would place interesting items strategically. When the U.S. Marshalls show was being filmed, Glen was asked to be the safety diver during the shoot. Though he couldn’t do it because of work commitments, one of his divers did the job. Glen just asked the diver to do one thing, ask what they were going to do with the plane when they were through. “I bought it from Warner Brothers for one dollar,” Glen said.
While it only took a dollar to buy the plane, moving it to the quarry was a different matter. The plane now sits with a school bus, and other neat items that divers new and old can check out. If you are not an experienced diver, don’t fret, Glen gives lessons and will give a beginners workout. Of course, he has great dive options for the more experienced diver as well. Mermet Springs is located outside of Vienna, Ill. Call 618-527-DIVE or log onto http://www.mermetsprings.com for details.
Interested in western history? Scenes from Where the West Was Won were shot at Cave-In-Rock State Park, which is located, like the Bay City
General Store, right along the Ohio River. Patsy Ledbetter of Cave-In-Rock,
Ill., said, “My great Uncle and Aunt owned this land.”
She recalled the filming. “It took eight days to film Davy Crockett and the keelboat race.”
Patsy, a retired schoolteacher, said that the cave has flooded in years past. She even showed where boaters had written their names at the top of the cave. Some names date back to 1913. As a child, she can remember the cave being used as a place to hold dances. “My Uncle played a violin. They had made a wooden floor and charged to come to dances here,” she said
Cave-In-Rock State Park was created in 1929, but its history dates back several
centuries. The 55-foot-wide cave, situated on the banks of the river, served as
shelter for Native Americans as well as French explorers. Then later in the
18th century and the early 19th century, the cave was used by outlaws and river
pirates. One of the Web sites explained, “After the outlaws were removed from the cave, it was used for revivals, town
meetings, shelter and even as the backdrop for a western movie.”
That western movie was How the West Was Won. Today the adventures filmed here are filmed by tourists using their video cameras, but the cave and park are natural wonders not often found on Illinois soil.[image-4]
The park also has a variety of recreational activities available, along with a lodge and restaurant. Check out www.quincynet.com/illinoisparks/CaveInRock for more information.
Metropolis, Ill., is the reigning home of Superman. In this town that boasts the oldest state park and Fort Massac recreated in miniature, as well as Harrah’s casino and hotel, this small city is truly Superman’s burg. The Superman hook came about because of Jim Hambrick’s fascination with Superman lore. Hambrick, a California native, brought his hobby to Superman’s hometown and opened a Super Museum. This fun stop boasts over 20,000 items, covering the earliest to the latest Superman memorabilia.
Besides the Super Museum, Hambrick has also opened the Americana Hollywood
Museum, which is dedicated to Hollywood of yesterday and today. Hambrick’s nephew, Dustin Dewey, along with many family members, work at the museums and
share the collecting gene. Batman is Dustin’s particular lure. He said that items in the two museums combined represent only
20 percent of Hambrick’s collection. “He is always bringing in more stuff. You name it, if he can find it he does.”
Call 618-524-5518 for information and hours at the Super Museum and 618-524-5975
for the Americana Hollywood museum. These are just a few of the fun ways you
can get a Hollywood fix without flying halfway across the United States! Keep
in mind that it can still freeze and ice up in southern Illinois, so check out
the weather conditions. If the road is clear, and the Ohio is moving, head
south and add a little Hollywood glam and glitter to your holiday!
Cindy Ladage works part time for the
State of Illinois and lives on a grain
farm near Virden. Cindy is the author
of two short-story collections, co-author
of two children’s books with Jane Aumann
and enjoys freelance writing.