The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Good-feelin' banjo club livens up The Raritan Opera House

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher-owner

"The Banjo Club really sounded great in that facility," Larry Hackmann said as we visited about his recent stop at the Raritan Opera House.

"The accoustics really bring out the sound of the banjo music."

The Hackmanns were the surprise ending to a perfectly delightful evening entitled, "Beans and Banjos".

It began at 4:30 a.m. Saturday with the old fashioned warmth of the Raritan Baptist Church ham & beans and cornbread dinner which preceded a banjo concert put on by The Central Illinois Banjo Club of Morton.

They travel all this way due to the club's president, Denny Overstreet, who is a Raritan native - born and raised.

Denny's goodhearted disposition and his talented band, and his fun-loving wife Kathy's clean light-hearted humor as master of ceremonies, kept the audience laughing providing the most delightful evening.

Early in the two act show, a lady from Monmouth was introduced who recently celebrated her 103rd birthday. Lois Paulson.

It was hard to believe Lois was 80 let alone 103, but she assures that she is, still living alone, taking care of things by herself. Neighbors keep check that all is well.

She was happy to be invited out by her good neighbors for this concert and everyone joined in singing the "happy birthday" song to Lois with the help of the Banjo Club.

Just when you thought your night couldn't get any better with all the familiar songs you could sing along to or tap your toe to, a couple dressed in full German Octoberfest attire waltzed into the opera house, then took front stage and danced along to the famous "Tennessee Waltz" written in 1946 and was made famous by Patti Page.

The energetic couple in their seventies were introduced as Larry and Shirley Hackmann of Washington, IL.

They finished the concert by helping the Central Illinois Banjo Club close their show, dancing to that famous gospel song, "I'll Fly Away."

A very appreicative and delighted crowd jumped to their feet and gave them all a standing ovation.

Members attending who are members of the Central Illinois Banjo Club of Morton, are Bill Ihnow, Gary Little, Denny Overstreet and wife Kathy, Gail Struck, Max Ilman, Jan Winkler, Susan Chadwick, Pete Faulkner on the keyboard, Suzanne Faulkner, Chris Adleman on the tuba, and Jerry Miller.


The Hackmann's may be familiar faces if you tend to travel to many community festivals or community events.

They have dress attire from the 1860s (which incude this patriotic red outfit pictured here they use for the Honor Flights), the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and the Titanic from the 1912's.

As usual, 2017 has been a very busy year.

The Hackmanns will have danced in 13 parades including the upcoming ISU Homecoming Parade on October 21st. This will total over 60 parades they have been in, starting in 2012.

Most of these, they danced wearing 1860s era attire to the beat of a marching band in the parade.

They've danced at 8 Senior Citizen proms (5 of which were put on by high schools). They've danced at 7 Civil War Balls & Reenactments (including Keokuk, IA), 15 Oktoberfests & German events (including Burlington, IA), 5 Irish events (2 of which were St. Patrick's Day Parades), 3 1940s or 1950s events and dressed Navy Dress white at an swing dance event at IWU (Illinois Wesleyan University).

They were honored to be able to dance in "Red, White & Blue simulated 1860s attire for the 3 Peoria Honor Flights this year. And, they danced at about 20 park concerts for which they said, "We dressed nicely, but not fancy."

Shirley is a retired teacher and Larry is a retired Caterpillar engineer. They have three daughters and 14 grandchildren. On March 9, 2018 they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Larry and Shirley started dancing in college and then he said they married and didn't dance again for 35 years, busy working and raising a family.

And then a drunk driver crossed the centerline and his car headed right for Larry's car, head-on. In an instant, his life was changed on May 10, 2004. A punctured and deflated lung, nine broken bones including his collarbones, sternum, leg and a crushed foot so bad the doctor said it was too difficult to fix and he would need to amputate it.

Larry told the doctor that he wasn't ready to do that yet so they referred him to a doctor in Springfield who operated and save his crushed foot. Larry carried pure determination. If the therapist asked him to do 10 repetitions of an exercise, he would do 20 or 30 instead and 6 months later, he was able to pull himself out of the wheelchair and walk a few steps.

It was on Thanksgiving, 7 months after the accident, that Larry said he had first walked. "I walked up to the microphone at our church and thanked everyone for their support and for all the things they had done for us."

Larry said he spent most of his time in a hospital bed in their front room for more than 18 months, endured 8 surgeries and a long painful recovery.

A son-in-law brought him a computer and he had Internet, and a televisiion. One of his favorite shows was "Lawrence Welk". He wondered if he ever would walk or dance again.

When he saw an upcoming dance at Fondulac Park District in East Peoria, he decided to give it a try dancing for a little over an hour. Larry said, "In a few days he could tell his leg was better, so they kept on dancing and Larry kept on improving.

"Dancing turned out to be the best therapy."

Before the accident, the couple had only danced twice in their married life.

Dancing uses different muscles than you use in walking and it is very therapeutic. The Hackmanns say they would never have been dancing if it weren't for the accident.

"We'd probably be just sitting at our home getting older faster."

Larry said when he first danced, he thought it might be boring, so he didn't tell his wife and decided that everytime he danced he would add a new step. Larry is a good leader and Shirley is good at following his lead. And of course, practice makes perfect.

"We are not one to dwell on the accident or the turmoil we went through along the way," Shirley said. It's brought us to a lot of events and we've met a lot of good people along the way."

The couple go twice a month to the Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Peoria to the Central Illinois Dance Society. The group meets to practice the type of ballroom dancing popular during the Civil War.

And they are part of The Central Illinois Civil War Dance Society Performers, sponsored by the Metamora Courthouse.

The group is recruiting additional dancers to join their group that performs period dances from the early to mid-1800s, including some that were danced at the Lincoln inaugurals.

Practices, which are open to the public, are held at 6:30-8:30 p.m. the 2nd and 4th Mondays in the second floor courtroom of the Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site, 113 East Partridge Street, Metamora.

The Hackmanns enjoy being a part of the performances which occur year round at schools, nursing homes, museums, and at various events throughout Central Illinois. The group has performed several times at the Old State Capitol and the the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.

"God made some beautiful out of something terrible," Shirley said.

The Central Illinois Banjo Club of Morton, IL brought life back into the ole historic Opera House Saturday evening as the group of seven banjos, a tuba, pianist, and two guitar players had the audience swaying and bouncing in their chairs to the lively and nostalgic music of yesteryear.

Bill Ihnow, 81, one of the talented banjo players from the Central Illinois Banjo Club-Morton gives a hug to the oldest lady in attendance, Lois Paulson, who takes care of her own home in Monmouth and was brought to the concert by her neighbors for her 103rd birthday. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to Lois as the Banjos played.

(photos by Dessa Rodeffer/The Quill Publisher-owner)


The banjo club performance ended at Raritan with Larry and Shirley Hackmann of Washington dancing to "The Tennessee Waltz" then "I'll Fly Away". They came from Burlington's Octoberfest to see the historic old opera house they had heard about. "The accoustics are great!"