WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Rekindling Old Connections in Macomb

Jul 10, 2014

Tom and Gayle Carper of Macomb have more than 1,000 photos from the years when Tom owned bars in town.  They decided the pictures should be shared and started posting them to Flickr and Facebook.

At the same time, his sister-in-law Annette mentioned she would like to reconnect with coworkers from one of those establishments, Tom’s Café.

Out of that grew the idea of holding the TomCat Reunion this weekend in Macomb.

The former Grin and Beer It. The building later served as the children's library. It was torn down this month as part of the Macomb Public Library expansion.
Credit Tom Carper

“I think people like to come back to their college town but not necessarily for a football game or on homecoming,” Carper said.

“I think they like to come back and connect with people they have some background with. We’re just looking to provide that opportunity.”

He hopes former employees, customers, Western Illinois University graduates, and others from that era will participate.

Most of the activities will take place Saturday.  Carper said there will be a golf outing in the morning at the WIU golf course, a happy hour in the afternoon at Jackson Street Pub, then a performance by the band Windjam (with all original members) that night at the Pace.

“So about 7:30 or 8:00 they (the band) will fire up for two or three hours. It won’t be too late because it’s an old crowd,” Carper said with a laugh.

The photos on Flickr and Facebook date back to the early 1970s.  Carper said it’s ironic social media is sometimes criticized for distancing people from one another because in this instance it’s being used to bring people together.

The name “TomCat” is a reference to Carper and his late brother Mike.

“Tom is for me and ‘Cat’ was my brother’s nickname.”

Mike owned Jackson Street Pub until he passed away in March, 2011.

Establishments previously owned by Tom Carper include Grin and Beer It, TC’s, and Tom’s Café.  He later served as Macomb’s mayor for 12 years and now serves on the Amtrak Board of Directors.