by Bill Monson
Some left-over observations from a reunion weekend:
I know I'm back in Illinois when I get off the plane at Peoria Airport and smell new-mown grass along the runway. I bought my wife a book--"How to Talk Midwestern"--so she could understand me when I'm in-state. She says the minute I smell that prairie grass, I start "talkin' lak a good ole boy."
Didn't get to the Galesburg Welcome Center this trip--but I still carry my little magnifying card from last year. Everyone my age who sees it wants one. It's good for reading maps, telephone books, and the tiny contents labels at the supermarket.
Many thanks to Dean Lindstrom for the loan of the Victor 45-rpm record changer. It drew a good response at our GHS Class of 1953 reunion party. It was great to see Pete Thierry at the reunion. We've known each other since first grade at Mary Allen West. All the women present were wonderstruck. How does he stay so young-looking? Gene Thurmond, also a MAW first-grader with us, and I would like to know Pete's secret.
Another of our reunion attendees was a world traveler (and non-native) who heartily approved of how Galesburg is trying to preserve its downtown. He urges the city to keep at it.
I like the new lamp posts and benches (check out my picture with this column)--but I have a question. Since there aren't many pedestrians downtown, shouldn't the benches face the street? (Unless you like to sit and stare into the Sav-a-Buk!) By contrast, North Henderson Street has all the looks and charm of a California strip mall. I thought I'd avoid train horns by staying at one of the hotels next to US 34. Haw! You can hear them plainly--especially after ten o'clock when vehicle traffic on 34 is nearly non-existent. Don't hold your breath until the Feds finance moving any tracks anywhere.
The Ripon football team shared our motel the Friday night before they beat Knox. I was worried-- but the Ripon players proved to be quiet, polite and disciplined. They even studied! The coaches are gentlemen; and I salute them all as fine representatives of their college and conference. The Orpheum Theater tour was delightful-- history, folklore and as much exercise as your group desires. The GHS '53 folks went from basement to projection rooms--whew--and enjoyed themselves immensely. The place is a real treasure and should be preserved and protected. Get a group, call Amy Kelso at the theater, and see for yourself. American Airlines gets my vote as Jekyll and Hyde transportation: late and cramped seating eastbound; early and spacious westbound. However, no airline which serves a "deli bag" as a meal deserves to be called "major." American Connection's Jetstream 41--a propeller plane despite its highfalutin name-- led a fellow passenger to comment he'd "been in bigger Volkswagens." But it was 25 minutes early into Lambert Field St. Louis. The announcers at Lambert need to get the marbles out of their mouths when they make their PA remarks.
The front line of any town which expects to have many tourists is its restaurants. On my four- day visit, not all of them did well. Still love those cinnamon rolls at the Packing House--but how about some kidney beans in the salad bar? Man cannot live by garbanzos alone. Sully's proved schizo--good service, food and ambiance on Friday night, not so on Sunday night. The quality control was off for Sunday lunch at the Landmark. I don't like over-microwaved muffins you must eat with a spoon or water splashed on my wife. Good marks to Cherry Street Brewing Company, but Saturday noon, we nearly had the place to ourselves. As for the Steak 'n Shake--don't boast about your new shake flavors until you can make a drinkable chocolate shake. And you ignored a woman and her husband in their booth until he helped her back into her wheelchair and departed. For shame!
A word to Galesburg servers: treat all your customers well. The next old geezer through the door may be a columnist!
I finally learned who fired a broadside of garbage at Whiting Hall from the cannon on the Court House lawn back when Whiting was a dorm for Knox co-eds. And no, I'm not naming names! I didn't see my first fall color in Knox County until the day I left--September 23--on I-74 near the Knox Street overpass. The Spoon River valley had just a blush of color.
Favorite I-74 sign: "From Scratch Cooking at the Jubilee Cafe, Exit 82."
Peoria Airport still ranks among the world's toughest security checkpoints. My container of Tic Tacs set off their alarm. Foil in the label, the guard said.
Despite my dismay at what's happened to my home town, I still feel recharged when I visit. My roots go deep in our black, prairie loam. And I plan to return for Sandburg Days in May. (Warn all the Galesburg restaurants!!!!)