Facts Not Trivial to Authority on East St. Louis Lore

Article excerpt

Bill Nunes has already published one book about the history of East St. Louis, and he's writing a second one.

But that's not the end of his fascination with his old hometown. He has just produced a 1997 East St. Louis Trivia Calendar with a question for every day of the year.

The "365 Questions About a Great Rip-Snortin' City" promises "a treasure trove of information about a city that had a tavern on every corner and a church on every other corner." Some tidbits: Buffalo Bill came to town once a year to buy arrowheads for his western show. June Cleaver claimed to be from East St. Louis in one episode of "Leave It To Beaver". Lillian Gish worked at Finke Candy Kitchen. Indians sent smoke signals from Signal Hill. The questions span the 200-year history of the city, but focus on the 1930-1960 period. "No matter when you lived or worked in East St. Louis, you're going to enjoy this," said Nunes, now a resident of Glen Carbon. He is the author of "Coming of Age in '40s and '50s East St. Louis," an autobiographical account of the city published last year. It sold 4,000 copies. Nunes said his book outsold Colin Powell's autobiography at one store in Belleville. Nunes compiled the questions for the calendar while writing his second book, "East St. Louis - The Glory Years." It covers the city from its beginnings as a ferry service and a grist mill in the 1790s. Nunes did more than 200 interviews of former residents and illustrated it with 300 photographs. He hopes to publish the book next year. He decided to blend his information about the city with his interest in trivia. Nunes got the idea for the calendar while participating in trivia contests last year. A high school history teacher in Edwardsville and Collinsville for 30 years, Nunes was the team member who answered the history and geography questions. The calendar questions are about business leaders and industry, favorite places and politicians, nightclubs, crime figures, The Valley red-light district and sports heroes past and present. A few topics go beyond East St. Louis. For example, St. Clair County was the largest county in the world in 1800; it covered nearly the entire state of Illinois. Nunes, 57, graduated from East St. …