A Freshman’s Lament

My first semester at EIU at the dawn of the new millennium wasn’t quite what I expected.

As a newly minted 18-year-old at Morehouse College in 1947, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

That must be why, in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, hangs a large portrait of the building’s namesake covering his forehead with one hand in a gesture of either bewilderment or exasperation.

On Orientation Day the summer before my freshman year at Eastern Illinois University, my fellow prefrosh and I nervously and excitedly shuffled into the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union ballroom to watch a video addressing our fears of dorm life and living away from home for the first time. “EIU doesn’t have dorms,” it assured us. “It has residence halls.” The freshman in the video anxiously dreamt of having a nightmare roommate, but when they finally met, they became best friends.


Predictions for 2021

A new year is finally here and most of us can breathe easier knowing we survived 2020. It was a wild ride, with unforeseen events occurring almost every week. Last year I thought impeachment would be the biggest story. Oh, how wrong I was!

I thought it would be fun and interesting to write down some predictions for 2021, then, at the end of the year, go back and see if I was right. Some of these are based on what I actually think will happen, and some are just wild predictions.

I prefer to see 2021 as a winding down period for 2020, meaning that a lot of the crises that arose last year will be resolved this year.

COVID-19 – The vaccines that came out in December will become wildly available and Coronavirus will cease to be a major issue. Infections might still happen, but not nearly in the numbers they have been. In March, I thought predictions for COVID deaths in the hundreds of thousands was wildly pessimistic, but now I’m predicting a final U.S. death toll of at least 500,000. I hope I’m wrong.


To Mourn is a Virtue

This graceful neoclassical bronze door opens to the Duda mausoleum in Bohemian National Cemetery, 5255 N. Pulaski Road in Chicago, Illinois. Joseph Frank (1870-1950) and Albine T. Wolf (1872-1931) Duda were born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and emigrated to the United States. Joseph was a clothier in Chicago until his retirement. The couple had three children.

Historic America

Thoroughfare Gap Battlefield in Prince William County, Virginia

Hike nature trails and visit the ruins of a Colonial-Era mill at this historic battlefield in the Bull Run Mountains.

Click to expand photos

The Battle of Thoroughfare Gap (Chapman’s Mill) was fought on August 28, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts and Col. Percy Wyndham and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet in Fauquier and Prince William Counties, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Confederate victory, allowing two wings of the Confederate army to unite and win the Second Battle of Bull Run over the following three days. It resulted in 100 total casualties.

In late August 1862, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia squared off against Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia 40 miles from Washington, DC. Lee outmaneuvered Pope, sending Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s wing around Pope’s flank to destroy his supply depot at Manassas Junction. Confederate Maj. Gen. James Longstreet followed with the rest of the army. To reach Jackson, Longstreet had to pass through Thoroughfare Gap in the Bull Run Mountains.

To delay Longstreet and his 28,000-man force, Pope sent one brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts and a regiment of cavalry commanded by Col. Percy Wyndham, a British adventurer who volunteered to fight with the Union Army. Their force totaled approximately 5,000 men. On August 28, Wyndham was guarding the pass when Longstreet’s men began to march through. The cavalry retreated and sent for help, but Ricketts’ small brigade was severely outnumbered. By the time Ricketts arrived with reinforcements, Longstreet’s lead units held the high ground and easily fended off several Union attacks.

Mysterious America

Twin Haunted Mansions of Marian University

Since acquiring the Allison and Wheeler-Stokely mansions, rumors persist at this Catholic university that both former estates have an active spiritual life, and not of the religious variety.

Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana was established in 1851 by the Sisters of St. Francis as St. Francis Normal in Oldenburg, Indiana. In 1936, it merged with Immaculate Conception Junior College to become Marian College. The Sisters of St. Francis purchased Riverdale, the former James A. Allison estate in Indianapolis, and moved in. Marian College officially opened on September 15, 1937. Its name changed to Marian University in 2009. Since occupying the Allison Mansion, and in 1963, the Wheeler-Stokely Mansion, rumors persist that both former estates have an active spiritual life, and not of the religious variety.

Built for automotive mogul James Asbury Allison (1872-1928) between 1911 and 1914, this Art & Crafts Country-style mansion quickly gained a reputation as a “house of wonders”. It was revolutionary at the time for integrating the latest advancements, including intercoms, automatic lighted closets, an indoor swimming pool, and even an electric elevator. Allison co-founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, co-founded the Prest-O-Lite Company, and founded the Allison Engineering Company.

Architect Herbert Bass designed the mansion’s exterior, but Allison fired him before completion and hired Philadelphia architect William Price (1861-1916) to design the interior.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenberg purchased Allison’s estate at 3200 Cold Spring Road in 1936 and moved their school there, renaming it Marian College. It served as their main administration building, library, and living quarters for decades. Allison had previously worked with the Sisters of St. Francis to open a hospital in Miami Beach, Florida. After his death in 1928, rumors spread that his ethereal form remained at his beloved Indianapolis estate, which he called “Riverdale”. 


Looking forward to 2021

2020, the worst year in recent memory, has come and gone, and no one can say they’re sad to see it go. Political strife, social upheaval, pandemic, lock downs, and more unpleasantness has roiled the U.S. for the past several months.

In my own little corner of the world, my ability to travel and visit new places for this blog was greatly curtailed. Museums shut down, travel restrictions were imposed, and plans got canceled (including my honeymoon, which I’m still upset about).

Despite all that, I’ve tried to keep this website going, continue writing, and bring you new and interesting articles to, at the very least, inform and entertain you during these dark times. But cheer up! I firmly believe 2021 will be a great year. There’s nowhere to go but up.


Dear Hallow’d Wreath, These Tears are All

Christmas Wreath I

Christmas wreath at Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Christmas Town, 1 Busch Gardens Blvd in Williamsburg, Virginia.