Homecoming memories in Ladybug Land

by Bill Monson

Knox called it ''Homecoming,'' but the college was never home to me. I slept every night in my childhood bed on Blaine Avenue (give or take half a dozen nights in the theater furniture loft in Alumni Hall and the old Sigma Nu house on West Street -- and they're both gone now). For me, Knox was an incubator, hatching the eaglet from GHS across Standish Park and showing him how to fly.

Galesburg isn't home anymore, either. Other people live their lives here now, and I'm grateful when they allow me to intrude into their existence for a week or so to poke and pry and try to absorb lessons from what I observe.

The lessons I'll discuss in future columns. What follows are impressions from one autumn week in October, 2001.

I'd hoped to avoid O'Hare, but fog on the West Coast made me miss my Denver-Peoria connection, and I spent five hours at Gate F-2 as United Express tried to find Dorniers able to fly. It took two tries to start the port engine of my 7:30 plane which left for Peoria at 9:30 while I wondered why the airlines blamed lower passenger levels on September 11 or the economy and asked for a taxpayer bailout. Anybody remember Ozark Airlines?

A Daewoo Nubira from Dollar Rentacar -- 26 mpg, a Road-runner horn (beep beep), and shock absorbers that made it ride like a pogo stick on I-74 and Galesburg streets. (The spell-checker on my Mac computer wants to call it ''Dead Nubbin.'')

The peak of autumn color was over, but the first freeze of the oncoming winter left plenty of yellows, reds and purples along the Spoon River. 'Burg-bound, I listened to WLRD -- 1510 Macomb. It plays the same syndicated package of music as KJWL -- 1400 San Luis Obispo. One way to unite America, eh?

A big, shining gold tree greeted me on Blaine Avenue just north of Don's Family Restaurant, but the semi-annual ''Anything Goes Trash Day'' turned Blaine Avenue into a two-block-long junkyard for four days.

Some rough edges on the first concert of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony, but guest violinist Alexander Skwortsow's elfish clowning with conductor Bruce Polay during the Mozart Concerto in D Major made even the sad cellist smile.

Knox Homecoming -- the gridders lost, the soccer gals won, and the bees still rule on the Seymour Union Patio. The new curriculum being planned seems promising, but good luck trying to convince 18-year-olds what's good for them. Can anybody get better sounds out of a choir -- even a pickup one as at Homecoming Convocation -- than Laura Lane? I doubt it. Thank you, Knox, for the service award -- and I still think the Alumni Hall makeover is your best idea in a long time. The campus presents much too cold a face to the community on its front side (when it isn't presenting its back side).

I learned that Asian Ladybugs can bite, and they make a stink when you hassle them. I kept losing the lucky buckeyes I picked up on campus, and the steps to Old Main's second-floor Common Room seemed steeper. The Seymour Hall kitchen came up with a dinner steak that even beat the great corn-fed pork loin at Jumer's.

Elizabeth Carlin Metz got about every ounce of talent she could out of theater and dance majors for the musical review ''Give My Regards to Broadway'' -- great set, too -- and Owen Muelder got some great weather for the weekend, but 70 degrees is taunting the Alberta Clipper!!! And the Galesburg squirrels were so frantic I fear for all of you this winter.

The sound I love -- the carillon at the Central Congregational Church. The sound I hate -- starlings. (They were imported like ladybugs, too.) That fake owl on the East Main Congregational Church sure draws a crowd of pigeons. Call it Elvis.

How about that home-made Halloween yard display at 1245 E. Main? Why do people race in and out of the EconoFoods parking lot? Afraid to be seen shopping there?

Two things I hadn't seen before in The Burg -- the Welcome Center at the East Main city limits and the Washington Addition School behind the Mobil station. I promise more on both these treasures in future columns. Send me information, Brenda Kelso!

Something I didn't see--Sandburg Mall.

Driving four blocks on Henderson Street in my Daewoo was enough. I almost went in with my sister to her chiropractor.

Things I enjoyed: the future promised by Seminary Street second-story apartments, the good badinage with the gals at the Galesburg Copy Center, the almond-cinnamon taste of the hot chocolate I had at Innkeeper's Coffee House. The nostalgia world of the Antique Mall. Norm Winick's zippy, red Aztek. Lightning without thunder over Knoxville. Canadian geese landing at the Bridal Trail pond on South Soangetahahaha.

Things I didn't enjoy: the last, sad days of Jumer's Continental -- dirty, disintegrating grout around my bathtub, a broken drawer on my dresser, and lipstick on my coffee cup for Sunday brunch. Good luck, Mr. Barash. You'll need it.

I bought only one book this trip -- Carley Robison's ''Galesburg Illinois in Vintage Postcards'' -- and I didn't get caught by a single train as I drove Main Street. I didn't count locomotive horns, but as the leaves fell in the wind, I was more and more aware of them. They reminded me that Knox College may have started Galesburg, but the BNSF is the primal force in town now. And that's only one of the lessons I'll be discussing in future weeks.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online October 31, 2001

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