Norman RockwellDecember 2, 2007 at 1:14 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
I recall my childhood as a magical time. Really. I grew up in the country, a small, rural town in Southern Illinois. There was a farm nearby, belonging to my friend’s family, that I spent most of my time. It was just like out of one of those textbooks from the 1940s. The goat and sheep pen, the geese that did as they pleased. The chicken pen and chicken house. The barn and hayloft, the pasture–
And the rest of the town. I know I was young, so from that angle, old people were really old. But Geez–there were some ancient monuments alive in our town. Otto Segelhorst was my friend’s grampa, and chose not to speak very good English. He and Hiram Nobe taught my dad how to make German wine. My brother now lives in Hiram’s house.
Up the street a couple of houses was John–I don’t remember his last name. His house was right by the entrance to the park. I’d sit and talk with him. On the other side of the entrance was Adolph Schuetz. He was up to the Tavern alot. Moose’s.
Down the other street was Ewalt Steinkamp, and we owned the lot next to him. Behind him, in the middle of the next block, was Mrs. Lietz. She was about 387 years old in 1970. She always had a tiny little dog, that she would walk once or twice or a dozen times a day, down past the bridge and back. Round trip, about a mile or more.
She used up alot of dogs.
The commerce center of town was the grain elevator, Doelling’s Garage, a tiny general store, and Moose’s Tavern. Doelling’s Garage had been open when I was young, but my the time I was a teen, it had been closed for a few years. Same with the Store. I swear I don’t know what people are thinking when they open a store in a town with 160 people in it–and most of those are not going to patronize your business. Wishful thinking? I remember it had been open on occasion in the summer, and always some weird hippie looking dude from out of town would be running the place. I’m sure they were nice and all–but that is not going to fly in our town.
The old grain elevator has been through some changes. The one that breaks my heart is the Mill Pond. It was only three feet deep, at the most. And about the size of a yard. Maybe a quarter acre. But it was the staging ground for my youth. Fishing–I can’t believe there were fish in it–and camping, right in town. We ice skated on it, and road our bikes on the ice. . .And I seem to recall it being frozen from Christmas Break all the way through the end of February.
In my later rebellious teen years, we (me and the half dozen or so town kids) would stage "Breakout" in the Summer. We had a name for it. After everyone went to bed, after midnight–we would all sneak out and meet up by the pond. Have a fire, sometimes a bottle of Mad Dog (the Good Stuff). We were living on the edge–as dangerous as a Scooby Cartoon.
After my friend Chaz went into the Army, and came back for Christmas break, we used his equipment to rapel from the top of the grain elevator–about 120 feet–on New Years’ Eve.
Moose’s was the heart and soul of the town. Moose–I don’t know what his name was–and his wife ran the place. This is where I came to understand the expression "bar fly." Usually on the end of the L-shaped bar, on the three stools for the regulars, would be a rotation of several people. Bill Segelhorst, my friend’s dad, or Paul Martin–who always seemed to me to be stuck up son of a bitch–or Adolph Schuetz.
There were some others in those spots, but those were the ones whose ass print was in the stool.
It was an old building, built in the 1800s like everything else in the town. A pool table that I’m not sure I ever saw anyone play. Wow. Three or four booths and four or five tables, and less than a dozen seats at the bar. A juke box. Moose had a kitchen in back, and cooked a bit. He didn’t like to, but it was part of the business. The burgers were good.
Catty-corner to the Mill was where the Tulls lived. My friends. Dad’s Friend, Charlie, was the dad, and the smartest guy I ever knew. Completely full of shit, too, so you never knew what to believe. His older sons were Lee and Chaz. Both of them alternated as my friends, staying at opposite times with their dad.
Down the street from there is the Lutheran Church. I remember when we went, some years later, to my old friend Vernon’s wedding there, I told my ex, "Yeah, this little town has a big church in it–"
We get there, and it’s the size of a house. Not a big house. Well, the last time I was in it was for the Sunday school’s Christmas production (Picture Charlie Brown’s show) when I was eight.
There is also a park, with pavilions for the town picnic and other activities. There was a stage, and below the stage, the basketball court/dance floor, for when the polka band strikes up. Back behind there is the coal mine, or what’s left of it. It closed in 1969–right before we moved there. Even at that time, they were still using mules to pull the coal cars out. Around the corner from the church was an oddly shaped house, deep and narrow. Stella–I forget her last name, an old Polish woman–used to babysit me and my sister. Mostly my sister. I was six or seven, and needed no supervision. I swear everything was in black and white back then. That’s how I remember it.
I think it’s funny how the fall, and the cold, and the smell of leaves and fireplaces. . .. makes me remember this.