This is the first in a new series reminiscing about my college years at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. I spent eight years there, from 2000 to 2008, graduating with a Master’s in History. Both my dad and my great-uncle John Kleen graduated from EIU, so you could say it was a family tradition.
When I attended, there were around 11,000 students at any given time. Attendance has since fallen to 7,500 (a 7.1% increase from the previous year). Carman Hall, where I lived my freshman year, was closed due to budget cuts and falling enrollment. This has been devastating to the local community, which was already struggling when I was there. On return trips to Charleston, I’m saddened to see all the abandoned buildings and empty storefronts.
So this series is meant to not only share some of my own history, but preserve these memories of a rapidly vanishing past. Hopefully there are readers out there who have their own memories of these places and events. Feel free to leave a comment with your own stories. Why start with Friends & Co.? It seems as good a place as any.
Friends & Co. used to be located at 509 Van Buren Avenue, a few blocks south of the Charleston town square. It was attached to a music venue called The Cellar. It opened in the early 1980s (I think), and the owner was a schoolteacher named David Gherardini. My impression was Friends & Co. attracted an intellectual crowd. It was a bar for English and Philosophy majors, and this review on Yelp from Sean R. confirms my impressions:
Winter has me feeling nostalgic for the halcyon days of summer, when my dad and I would make the long drive up to the Chain O’ Lakes in Northern Illinois to rent a rowboat and go fishing.
The Chain O’ Lakes, including Fox Lake, Grass Lake, Lake Marie, and Channel Lake, near Antioch, has offered summer visitors a unique blend of sporting and entertainment since the late nineteenth century.
Possibly the most famous establishment on the Chain is Blarney Island, “Key West of the Midwest,” a bar located a mile offshore in Grass Lake, where over a decade worth of bras, hats, and business cards used to hang from the ceiling.
But the fond memories of my childhood lay a little to the east, at C.J. Smith Resort. Don’t let the name fool you, C.J. Smith’s is not much more than a boat rental near the shore of tiny Spring Lake that looks like it hasn’t changed since the 1950s. At least it hasn’t changed in my lifetime.
If you are looking to rent large, gas guzzling speedboats, look somewhere else. C.J. Smith’s offers only top quality 14’ and 16’ aluminum rowboats, with a 6, 8, or 15HP motor for an extra cost. Ditch the motor, in my opinion. The experience is much more rewarding if you row.
What to do when you start with a pile of old documents and photos? I’ve been exploring my family history lately and been frustrated by lack of online sources, so I decided to start posting information in the hopes of being contacted by someone who can fill in the blanks. I’ve already learned so much on my own.
My paternal family history is something of a mystery. My grandma’s birth parents died in Germany after World War 1 when she was a toddler. She was adopted and brought to America in the 1930s. I know a bit about her adopted family, but very little about her birth parents. It’s even more difficult because all their records are in Germany.
My grandpa saved very little in the way of family photos. Thankfully, my grandma saved basically everything. We have six or seven different photos of my great grandmother’s headstone. Unfortunately, I learned this morning that it’s likely the cemetery she’s buried in was abandoned.
Maybe someday I can go to Germany and search for records of my distant relatives, but for now I’ll focus on what I can find in old photo albums. I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I do!
I thought it would be fun to do an overview of movies that came out while I was in high school. The first video covers August to December 1996, when I entered high school as a freshman at Maine West in Des Plaines, Illinois. Yeah, it’s blatant nostalgia, even though the ’90s was a lousy decade to be a teenager. What were your favorite films from the late ’90s?
This short film by iLL WiLL PrEss creator Jonathan Ian Mathers came out last October, and is a charming addition to the holiday. Mathers is the brains behind Foamy the Squirrel and Neurotically Yours. He began created flash cartoons in 2002 and has spun that into a steady gig.
I loved these cartoons when I was in college, but lost track of them over the years. I was surprised/delighted to see this Halloween short on Amazon.com.
A Little Halloween is an animated poem about a goth girl named Pauline who tries to cast a spell to make Halloween last year-round, the only time she feels accepted.
Instead, the spell spawns “Pum’Kin Guy,” an anthropomorphic pumpkin with an attitude and a Brooklyn accent. Pum’Kin Guy is Pauline’s only friend and constant companion, listening to her and protecting her from other people’s taunts and jeers.
You can rent the video on Amazon for $1.99 or watch it for free on YouTube.
I don’t talk about it much, but I was a big science fiction fan as a kid and I love retro-futurism, atompunk, raygun gothic, and all those related genres. This is a neat video with Bruce McCall, an illustrator who creates what he calls “faux-nostalgic art”, or art that longs for a past that never existed. Think of how people in the 1930s imagined the ’90s. I thought we’d have flying cars and colonies on the moon by now. Instead, we’re still obsessing over celebrities and fake news or whatnot. Ah well.
Ok, it’s not much of a secret, but I love their Swedish pancakes so much I had to share. This is definitely a local delicacy. I’ve never seen Swedish pancakes on a menu outside the Rockford, Illinois area. Stockholm Inn is located in a strip mall at 2420 Charles Street if you’re ever in the area.