Sunday, January 11, 2009

Variety Is the Spice

This first full week of 2009 has been full of varied activities: INR reading, working on a feature article, visiting Jari Jackson, Kroger’s Senior Citizen Day, Center Church monthly business meeting, doctor’s appointment, prose and poetry reading at Hardee’s, visiting my daughter Katherine, going to the new restaurant at Goreville, attending our first swim meet at Edwardsville to see our neighbor Katie Cully win every heat she was in, and finally today in addition to worship, hearing Bob Jackson tell his family story at the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois about the death of his dad’s sister and husband during the days of the Charley Birger gang. Yeah, I did a little house work and cooking too this week, but it sounds as if I mostly ran around. Oh, I finished putting up the Christmas decorations. I think. I usually find something left behind and probably will again this year.

The varied activities have allowed me to see a number of people, so that has been very good. At Kroger’s, I warned Gerald that on this special day for seniors I usually see people I have not seen in years. Sure enough, I ran into Jean Harrison and we had a lovely visit. Come to find out, Gerald visited with my cousin Dick Stanley in the parking lot. I also saw my friend Laura Parks.

Our small Southern Illinois Writers Guild coffee house group may not have seen a lot of people, but we saw a lot of places. After skipping meeting in December, we were to have our monthly prose and poetry reading at Latta Java. However, we forgot to remind Terrance Henry that we were meeting again, and we found our venue all locked up. Along with just enjoying seeing friends we had not seen for a couple of months, we stood on the cold sidewalk looking longingly inside and debated what to do next Since we had folk who’d arrived not just from Marion but from Cobden, Carbondale, and Carterville, we didn’t want to quit after all that effort made to get there.

Numerous phone calls later and thinking everyone coming had arrived, we left a note on the door and headed to Western Sizzling’ hoping they’d allow use of their little extra side room. They probably would have but by the time we all arrived, it was too near their closing time for our reading session. (We won’t mention the late arrival there of some the out-of-towners who ended up at Menards. Our directions were evidently less than clear, and one car carefully followed the other down the wrong road.)

Not to be deterred, we next headed to nearby Hardee’s. I had not been sure I would read that night, but I did not want to miss being able to claim that I had participated in a book reading at Hardee’s. Steve Fessler was back from Thailand, and we enjoyed his essay written while there. Roger Poppen read about taking his parents to Watertown, North Dakota, to visit some family and to take pictures of them standing at sites of their early married life in the city where Roger was born. His description of their memories was a microcosm of American history. Jim Lambert really enjoyed this description because he had just spent Thanksgiving with relatives in Watertown.

We had a lot of fun on this progressive parade through the streets of Marion; and as our president said later, he felt the writings we shared were extra good that night. You are invited to join us when we meet again on Thursday night, February 12, at 7 p.m., but we won’t promise that we will have as much fun.

After a lovely time visiting with Katherine Friday afternoon, she was persuaded to go with us to the dinner Gerald had arranged with his brothers and wives, Keith and Barb and Garry and Ginger. We were going to check out The Old Home Place Restaurant that Patrick and Tina Barger opened this week at Goreville. Since Goreville is where I spent summers as a child and the location of our family roots, I am always happy when I am in that town. And since Patrick and Tina are special people, we were eager to see their restaurant. We were not disappointed. Every detail had been well planned with an excellent menu, a covey of sweet-faced friendly young waitresses, and Tina’s creation of down-home décor making a warm comfortable atmosphere.

If you want good food and generous servings, you’ll find it on the south side of Goreville on Route 37, where Old Home Place is built on the lot where the Borums’ barbeque eatery had stood. If you want to see friends, you’re likely to run into them there. We immediately walked by Gary and Janet Hacker of Tunnel Hill and Floyd and Gloria Stout of Vienna and then kept finding more friends and relatives as the evening continued.

We have wanted to see our eight-year-old neighbor Katie swim, and the Cullys invited us to go to Edwardsville for a swim meet at the YMCA. This was a first for us, and we had to be impressed not just with Katie (which we certainly were) but with all the youngsters’ speed and dedication. There were probably close to two-hundred kids there with parents, grandparents, and siblings in tow.

Teams set up lawn chairs in a circle in their assigned “down spot,” and from there we traipsed back and forth to the pool when Katie’s events came up. She was in the final four and won the coveted jacket for her age group. Her hard work (and the hard work of her parents) getting up and traveling to Rend Lake for early morning practices and lessons had paid off. The Cullys insisted on treating us to an excellent dinner at Eckert’s, and after some “short cuts” that Scott and Gerald prided themselves on, we wandered home by back roads and got home by 9:30 to stop for our mail and newspapers and arrive home for a good night’s sleep. (There is a reason short cuts was written with quotation marks.)

Listening to Bob Jackson’s story this afternoon about our county during the roaring twenties was fascinating, and again I saw friends and met new ones. But I will have to wait till another day perhaps to report or write an article about that. I do want to explain, however, that the roaring twenties here involved the roar of gun powder and the first bomb dropped in the United States—at the infamous Shady Rest. Bob gave concrete examples of news stories of that day with factual errors (such as his dad’s name being wrong and said to be from Ozark, MO, instead of Ozark, IL. I thought his explanation of how some involved told the story several different ways (usually to protect themselves) and, thus, finding accurate facts about any past event is difficult, and we need to be careful what we believe. That situation has not changed in the 21st century.

Several of us were surprised to find out the Williamson County Historical Society now has a several-volume collection of Oldham Paisley’s newspaper stories from those days. Bob said we could contact him to buy them, but otherwise we can wait until March when the Society resumes their Thursday afternoon openings of their museum located just off the Marion square.. (The museum is closed during December, January, and February to reduce the expense of heating the old building, which once was the home of the sheriff and also the county jail.)

The next time someone asks me what I want for Christmas, I will be able to tell them I want this collection of Oldham Paisley’s accounts of the feud between the Birger and Shelton gangs, who terrorized our county. Mothers shooed their children into their homes when they saw the gangs’ cars approaching their neighborhoods loaded with armed men.

I could tell Bob still grieved for his father’s loss of his sister and husband—the aunt and uncle that Bob never got to know except through his research. (A topic very painful for his father to talk about. Bob learned about the murders when he overheard adult conversation when he was eight.) I was touched that he had taken a cherished childhood toy—a little rubber motorcycle—and used his artist skills to turn the driver into his uncle Lori Price dressed in his brown state patrolman uniform—the same one Price died a bloody death in when the gang kidnapped and killed Price and his wife Ethel.

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