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Small town girl

Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 in Me

Originally posted March 6, 2010 and somehow lost.

Here I am in the very center of town.

Here I am in the very center of town.

You can go home again. Everything just looks so much smaller and March is probably not the best time to go. But I had a great time seeing my little home town again and showing parts of it to my husband who wasn’t even alive during the years I was there.

Population 1,100. Saaaaalute! (Hee Haw reference)

Population 1,100. Saaaaalute! (Hee Haw reference)

I grew up in Roseville, Illinois, population around 1,100 in the late 60s and early 70s. Don’t think hippies and free love. Girls wore their shirts super short. A few babies were born to high school kids. I’m sure some sons went to Vietnam; there were no protests. I think some kid died from inhaling Bactine fumes. But I don’t think flower power really made much of an impact here. My older sister might remember things differently. I recall it as a very quiet and safe time.

The children's section was tiny. But the librarian was great.

The children's section was tiny. But the librarian was great.

Mostly I remember riding with my sister as she drove our donkey around town, and biking with my friends to one of the ice cream shops in town. These opened and closed regularly, but there was always at least one in town. I remember walking the railroad tracks with the dogs and picking wild strawberries. I remember jumping out of the haymow. I remember walking through back yards to get to school. And I remember the great fun of the county fair held in the local park where we showed our ponies for 4H, where Mom sold her heavy-on-the-vinegar “church slaw” at the food tent, and where you could ride the Scrambler.


I fell off this and got kicked in the head by all my classmates. First graders weren't allowed on this for some reason.

I fell off this and got kicked in the head by all my classmates. First graders weren't allowed on this for some reason.

Some things haven’t changed. The small library is still there and has regular hours. The elementary school serves fewer grades and probably fewer students, but the playground hasn’t changed much. The seats of the swing sets have been replaced, but the dangerous ocean wave and the slides are still there. The one with wooden sides that Jalaine slid over the side of and got a huge splinter just before my very first attempt at going down myself is gone. The field were Candy and I were allowed by the boys to play soccer with them is still there, but so much smaller. My favorite tree with the exposed roots is gone. There was too much snow to know if you can still find fossils in the gravel around the basketball hoops.


Roseville Roller Rink: Where my parents met (in their 30s)

Roseville Roller Rink: Where my parents met (in their 30s)

Downtown still boasts most of the buildings I used to peddle my bike past. But commerce has dried up. There’s no dime store, no jewelry story, no whatever other stores were there that didn’t interest me as a kid. I didn’t even see a grocery store. But the bowling alley is still there, as is the roller rink where my parents met.

The house I grew up in is still there, but changed. The porch is enclosed, trees have died and been removed, the balcony and widow’s walk are gone, the slate roof and one chimney are gone. Those last two make great sense. I remember rain sliding down the wall of my bedroom and dripping onto my sister’s head in hers. And the chimney in the kitchen held an oven that Mom covered with a quilt in the winter to keep the cold from coming in too readily. Barn cats, horses, rabbits, and iris are also all missing. But the pump where I had to strip down to my underwear so Mom could wash the mud pies off of me is still there. And so is the clothes line, the barn and the well cover.

The little girl next door

The little girl next door

The best part of the visit was returning to my neighbor’s home. It, too, has changed greatly. But I remembered the parlor where they always had the tallest of Christmas trees and the porch we crawled under and almost set on fire, and the fireplace which has grown so small and short. And the little girl tormented by her older siblings and by me was there with a huge smile and great hospitality. I rang the doorbell but no one heard and I thought about just going in the back door and hollering like I did as a kid. But luckily Linda saw me pointing out changes in the yard and lot next door. We reminisced and looked at photos and I enjoyed the time immensely. Her mother, the lady who used to give us snacks and let us dig up half the yard for our Matchbox cars, also greeted me warmly. HabMoo was a good sport and listened and took the house tour with us.

Yummy Channel cat, like it's supposed to be prepared and served

Yummy catfish, like it's supposed to be prepared and served

No trip to rural Illinois would be complete without a catfish dinner. I couldn’t convince HabMoo to order any, but he did share the “world famous” onion rings from Club 41. And, as you can see by the photo, I got a real catfish dinner. The stuff you get anywhere else, except oddly enough in Oklahoma City, is not made correctly and usually features a catfish caught too large. I can get good sow belly around here, but not good catfish.

I loved growing up in this small town. When we’d visit after moving away we’d sit as a family on the front porch of MeMe and Papa’s, like many of the neighbors, and wave at the other neighbors out biking around town. I loved having the freedom to wander and am thankful for the adults who chewed me out when I did something exceptionally stupid. I knew my friends’ families and they knew mine. As as adult, knowing that everyone knows your business probably isn’t so great, but as a child it’s secure. I’m thankful that we moved away and I got the advantages of going to a good school in an urban area where I could see plays, attend a symphony, watch African dancers, etc. But I grew up among the cornfields and no stories worthy of the nightly news. That shaped me more than I sometimes realize and I’m grateful. I love my home town.

I just learned that this school is closing. Very sad.

I just learned that this school is closing. Very sad.

Related post:
Small town living

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