Ladies and Gentlemen, GRAB YOUR CAMERAS, THE RAZING IS ABOUT TO BEGIN!
by William A. Franckey
Unknown by most of Galesburg, there is the race of races taking place, sometimes overtly shocking but most of the time subtle. There's no name for it, it proceeds indifferent to the city's potential, ignorant of our towns heritage, oblivious to a useable resource and most unbelievable, it continues virtually unchecked. The race is to end up with a Galesburg that is no longer ours. Last night at work, I entered into a conversation with a coworker over this very subject. We will call him Ralph....... "Galesburg is no longer my Galesburg," Ralph said, and in the same breath added, "and I bet its no longer your Galesburg either." Now I had felt this for quite a while as something sort of undefinable. I like the idea of having a Walmart and Lowes plus I find myself getting personally exited about a Menards..... and I hesitate to say this out loud, a Red Lobster! Yet, something is really at odds with the 'burg. Its not the buildup on Henderson Street, nor the new mall, its the continual indifference to Galesburg's core. The old neighborhoods, fine homes, and historic locations have reached a point of critical mass. Over the years, our town has been left unchecked to someone else's ideas of a reinvented Galesburg. Soon we will soon lose it all and become a little homogenous community, indistinguishable from the next. "Look, said Ralph, we're not Chicago, or Peoria or Davenport, we are our own identity, so why reinvent ourselves?" Oh, the answer is simple and its one we don't have to think twice about. The reason that we're losing Galesburg, our Galesburg is economics. We're so poor, we must raze than asphalt.... or, we're improving so we must raze then asphalt. Give me a break. The trick here is to suggest a third alternative, to find a fourth solution. Shocking thought isn't it, for our local businesses and planners to act responsible for 1. financial well being, and at the very same time, 2. the well being of Galesburg.... historic Galesburg, not to put too fine a point on it. Has anyone done any homework on Galesburg's hidden nuggets of history? Are we going to allow everything to be torn down and paved? Will Scab Alley also succumb to the wrecking ball? Before the little houses on Scab Alley (Cottage Avenue) are razed, a solution must be found to keep our historic areas intact AND find workable solutions to any reason that would enable their demise.
Now here is the part I keep playing over and over in my mind, there are others who expressed amazement at the history, legend and lore of FIVE POINTS, recently featured in this very newspaper, The Zephyr. To a person, they are all Galesburg natives, one being powerfully connected to our local government. I explained that I myself, Galesburg born and having grown up within the railroad community, never realized the pivotal role Galesburg and the Points played in the struggle of railroad labor and management. Galesburg early on thought they would get a railroad but within a short time, Galesburg understood, that the railroad got a town. One hundred and fifty years later, why is there little to nothing to be found in historical print of our original depot and the POINTS? Well, it was a rough, ugly side of our neat and pious town. The 1888 railroad strike was so vicious that we are still living in its unspoken aftermath. If Galesburg natives, like myself, who grew up by Berrien Street and rode our bicycles to Dave's Book Store in the 50's have no knowledge of the violent and dynamic nature of the points, is it any wonder that a modern day city planner, however well intentioned, just doesn't get it?
Many people still talk about President Reagan and the struggle with the airline Flight Controllers but no one realizes the year long power struggle that took place at the end of our own South Prairie Street. Galesburg's railroad Superintendent, armed with the Pinkertons and their hired thugs literally walked the mayor of Galesburg down Lincoln Street to, get this, accidentally discover a hidden supply of dynamite thought to be used in blowing up steam locomotives in the freight yard at Five Points. Known as the Dynamite Conspiracy, the Great Q Strike of 1888 not only rocked the CB&Q Railroad but Galesburg as well. Every railroad watched the turmoil in Galesburg including the Sante Fe Railroad, which was also then located in town.
The labor agreements that railroad workers still abide by today stem directly from our little town of Galesburg. The strike caused much tension in the CB&Q Railroad communities as the loss of paychecks and future livelihood of many railroad families were severely threatened. If there ever was a hub of the Burlington Railroad, it was Galesburg. Tempers ran out of control on Galesburg Streets as Galesburg reeled from beatings, stabbing and murder. The local taverns were ordered closed and the railroad itself ordered its employees not to attend any public meetings of the strikers. Adding to the inflamed tensions, different railroad crafts stepped across into jobs left vacant by fellow striking railroad workers. Political rallies in Galesburg labeled certain opportunity taking employees as "scabs." They were said to be devoid of every principal of fair play, of decency and of honor, as men who strike at that sacred institution, the American home. It was proclaimed on Galesburg Streets that this new order of railroad worker should be called "The Order of Sneaking, Sniveling Railroad Scabs. Secret employee surveillance was enacted by the railroad with typed conversations between off duty employees arriving on the railroad superintendents desk each morning. Anyplace employees met, they were carefully watched and recorded. During one heated rally, attending police officers removed their badges and put them in their pockets, so intense was the situation. A local Galesburg boy once wrote "A row of houses on a new street was built off Mulberry Street east of Chambers, most of the houses occupied by firemen who had taken the place of of strikers. It was named Cottage Avenue but for years the strike sympathizers called it "Scab Alley." That local boy was Carl Sandburg and the excerpt was from "Always The Young Strangers." I bet you never thought you would be reading Sandburg today.
Now picture this, within a couple of years, Galesburg could see a tourist trade that would make sounding cities drool. I bet they are panting already. The ramifications will cut across the board and the little gems of lost Galesburg, long ignored and forgotten will become marketable......... valuable. Thousands will pour in to our city for the Railroad Hall of Fame, dinner and a little sightseeing. This isn't rocket science here. We will need something to use as historic Galesburg. Something to show what our town was and is. Maybe we should ask the city planners: What steps have you taken....... sorry, forget that one. Let us ask, what steps are you now taking to identify and to secure our Galesburg? If the answers don't make the grade or contain the word "asphalt," then Ladies and Gentlemen, Grab your Cameras.... The RAZING IS ABOUT TO BEGIN!