Bert Hoddinott Jr. knew he was quite good at drawing pictures at age 5 when copying the drawings he first spotted in children's encyclopedias.
Because he had a speech impediment as a youngster, Hoddinott figured he could better communicate through drawing pictures.
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The speech impediment became a thing of the past, but the inner artist inside Hoddinott fueled him to a lifetime of painting and drawing.
The 80-year-old resident of St. Charles said he retired from an ad agency in 1994, just in time to "miss the transition to computer graphics."
But Hoddinott hasn't missed a beat, saying, "A pencil, paper and a sharpener are my computer." He has continued to fill his home with impressive drawings, paintings, woodcarvings and dioramas.
"My wife thinks I am a great artist," Hoddinott said. "I consider myself a Sunday painter, someone with a hobby."
The various portraits of his wife, Barbara, and son, Bert III, as well as rural settings and other scenes give the impression that his wife's assessment is accurate.
So much so that Barbara and Bert III persuaded him to publish his work in a book. In the past year, "Reflections: The Art of Bert Hoddinott Jr." became a coffee-table book.
The 102-page book is the result of what Hoddinott has pursued most of his life, from his days as a draftsman in the Army to his five years as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago.
"We couldn't live on oranges and stale bread, so I went to work in an art studio while I was in school," Hoddinott said.
"I always thought I wanted to be a painter," he added. Ultimately, his artistic skills were put to use as an art director at the Foote, Cone and Belding ad agency.
In between all of this, he and his wife operated a "mom-and-pop resort" in Canada for 20 years, providing the inspiration for many of the pastoral scenes he has created on canvas.
Hoddinott has never put his work on display in a gallery, other than when he was a student at the Art Institute.
"We had a gallery at Carson's in downtown Chicago, and I actually had one of my paintings stolen," he said with a chuckle.
Hoddinott was flattered that someone would want a piece of his work badly enough to steal it.
"But the folks at Carson's wanted to keep it hush-hush," he said. "They didn't want anyone to know what happened in their store."
A tasty thought: Reader Gary Snyder of St. Charles has an interesting thought on what to do with an empty mall space in the area.
After reading my note a few weeks ago about how I wouldn't mind seeing a Heaven on Seven restaurant make its way into the Tri-Cities area to complement its locations in Chicago and Naperville, Snyder responded by agreeing that good Cajun food is lacking in this area.
Using Geneva's Festival of the Vine as "a business model," Snyder said maybe a vacant mall property could acts as "a food court incubator."
Such a place might have limited hours, he said, on Fridays and Saturdays.
Food samplings would be made in government-inspected kitchens, Snyder suggested. Various charities could sponsor cook-offs for chili and gumbo, and local restaurants could get involved.
In addition, food truck vendors may find such a concept interesting, he added.
It's a start: St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina has a decent idea on the table regarding a rewards system of sorts for the town's various taverns and bars. Basically, if you obey the liquor code rules and your patrons don't cause a ruckus with police, you get to stay open later.
Some good points were made about keeping bar patrons from other locations from flocking to a site that stays open after midnight.
It's not a perfect science at this point, but St. Charles needs some sort of system in place to hold those with liquor licenses accountable.
Just stop it: Geneva also is not without its downtown liquor woes.
After a few years of wondering what was going to happen at the former State Bank building and 302 West restaurant site at the corner of Third and State streets in Geneva, it was great to hear about EvenFlow Music and Spirits nightclub coming along.
Since opening a couple of years ago, EvenFlow has become an interesting new nightspot, hosting many terrific parties and other events.
But its owners need to snap to now after the city slapped the place with a $2,500 fine and cut 52 hours of late evening frolics in October, which, essentially, means the place will be closing at midnight. EvenFlow has been tagged three times with liquor code violations, the last one being a doozy. Some TV celebrity types who were at EvenFlow for a post-event gathering after they attended Jenny McCarthy's fundraiser at the Hotel Baker in St. Charles were arrested outside of the bar in the wee hours of the morning Aug. 25 for being in public after too much imbibing.
McCarthy, a Geneva resident and a regular on the "The View" morning TV show, was not part of the group that ran into trouble with Geneva police. But we have to suspect she directed her friends there. EvenFlow's owners need to stop trying to turn Geneva into something it is not. Generally, things quiet down well before the bars and taverns shut down at 2 a.m. Not always, but generally.
It's in a name: You can knock down a building but can't wipe out a name.
Geneva schools will dedicate their Fourth Street administrative offices as the Coultrap Educational Services Center at 10:30 a.m. next Saturday.
It keeps the name of former superintendent Harry Coultrap alive in the district, even if the school that once bore his name succumbed to the wrecking ball this year.