Friday, March 20, 2009

Running Late

When life is too abundant, sometimes I don’t have time to write. Sometimes I simply forget. And that happened again this week. So I am running late with this blog.

Monday I told the story of Priscilla the Hollyhock Girl from the Trail of Tears to a large group at the Centralia Historical Museum. As always, there were those who had ancestors who dropped off the Trail of Tears. In fact, that night I had a former English teacher tell me that she would have one or two students a semester who would tell her about their Cherokee heritage. We are trying to collect those stories on video tape to create an archive of the families with a Cherokee member who enriched our area when they dropped off the TOT for some reason. (For example, sometimes a mother gave away her baby—to keep the baby from freezing or starving.)

The Centralia museum is quite impressive in a huge cavernous building, the historic former Kohl & Meyer wholesale grocery warehouse. The museum collections fill two floors. You would not believe the still-working old-fashioned warehouse elevator, which I saw some people taking. (I took the stairs. Ha.) The building is near the Central Illinois railroad tracks that did so much for this small city.

There are thousands of items in the museum, even a full-size caboose. The railroads, coal mines, the oil boom, and agriculture are all represented.. There was a exhibit on our newest senator--Roland Burris, a native of Centralia, who had previously served in our state government.

Director Margaret Loomis was a gracious hostess and obviously had done a great job publicizing the event since almost all of the 125 seats she had set up were taken. I am sure credit also goes to Judith Joy from the Sentinel, who was there to do a follow-up story.

These community museums and historical projects require many hours of hard work by dedicated volunteers, and I am always impressed and encouraged that so many people give willingly of their time and energy for the public good as opposed to trying to create more wealth for themselves. In retirement, many volunteers work as many hours as they might have at a salaried job—and put up with many troubles they could avoid by just playing golf or bingo. I am glad they choose to volunteer.

Yesterday I again told the story of Priscilla to an lifelong learning class sponsored by John A. Logan College and taught by Marilyn Schild. Afterward there was time to go for coffee and try to catch up with each other’s lives. The berry sugarless pie at the Country Cupboard was delicious, Marilyn and I both agreed.

I went back to the college for our Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting in order to hear Jon Musgrave. As always, he gave a informative and stimulating presentation. We liked hearing how he did his various books, and it was exciting to hear about his newest project—a screen play he is writing with a fellow Southern Illinoisan now living in St. Louis.

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