Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Posts Tagged ‘Midwest

Flatland Memory

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I grew up in east central Illinois and flat farmland is something I knew as second nature.

A lot of people think it is boring, which it is, but when you’ve grown up with it and it’s home you naturally have an affinity for it.

Where I live now hardly features much in the way of dramatic terrain, such as mountains and gorges, but it does have it moments.

When I think about the Illinois prairie this is what I have in mind.

I picture a rural road going off into infinity. I see endless fields of corn and soybeans, but not wheat. For some reason there were not a lot of wheat fields in central Illinois when I was growing up.

There is a big sky, but it never seems are large as the sky does in the Western United States.

This image was made near Danforth, Illinois. The railroad tracks in the foreground belong to Canadian National, which owns the former Illinois Central line between Chicago and New Orleans.

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Written by csanders429

May 17, 2018 at 8:11 am

Stepping Back Into Memories

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I grew up in Mattoon, Illinois, a town of about 18,000 in the east central part of the state.

Like so many people, I left for college not expecting to come back. I figured to get a job elsewhere. Fact is, I wanted to live in another place that was larger than Mattoon.

But life has a way of interfering with your plans and dreams. I ended up returning to my hometown for my first newspaper reporting job, which lasted for more than six years before I moved on.

These days I have no reason to return to Mattoon other than for nostalgia. I have no family living there and I hardly know anyone still there.

I haven’t been back since August 2014. During that visit I noticed this mural that graces one end of a row of buildings at the east end of Western Avenue in downtown Mattoon.

Although I don’t know the story behind how this mural came to be, I can identify with it.

On those occasions when I get back to my original hometown I feel much like this family looking into a welcoming past.

Like them, I see ancestors and friends, many of whom are no longer around, going about their daily life. These frozen in time memories can be quite powerful and serve as a reminder of where you’ve been and what you came from.

The bottom of the two images features a wider angle to show the context of the building featuring the mural.

On the right is Western Avenue. At one time, there was a row of building on the north side of the street. But they’re gone now, replaced by a grocery store and its parking lot.

On the left is the former right of way of the New York Central Railroad. I’m not sure who owns that property today, but it appears to have been “re-purposed” as open space used for parking.

Chelsea Clock Tower

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Built by John Glazier as a water tower in 1907, the Chelsea Clock tower is one of this Michigan city’s most iconic images. It once served an industrial complex, but today has been restored and re-purposed into offices and businesses. The tower itself is eight stories tall.

It Won’t Be Long ’till Harvest

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The corn in Midwest fields is as tall as it is going to get this year. The tassels are out and it is a matter of time before the crop matures to a point where it is ready for harvest. That is going to be more than a month from now and close to two months.

Such scenes as this one near New London, Ohio, bring back memories of late summer during my childhood when I lived in the corn belt of central Illinois.

It is reminder that most of summer is behind me and soon it will be back to school time and Friday night high school football games.

Around the time of harvest will be Halloween. Maybe the fun of football games and candy is enough to make up for the loss of  summer.

Written by csanders429

August 10, 2017 at 7:21 am

Small Town Institution

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I’ve been in a few arguments over the years about what constitutes a small town.

I describe the place where I grew up in east central Illinois as a “small town,” but other say that with a population of 20,000 my hometown doesn’t qualify as a small town. But I don’t consider it a city or even an urban area.

There is little doubt, though, that Milltown, Indiana, population 807, is a small town. I’ve only been there because my wife once lived there before we met.

It’s a quaint little town amid the rolling hills of Southern Indiana in that buffer zone between the North and the South.

One of the town’s institutions is Maxine’s Market. I’m told that this business has undergone some name and ownership changes over the years and perhaps it has a new name and owner now. It might even be out of business, although I found some references to it online.

I made this image in July 2011 on slide film that I exposed in the waning days of my time as a film shooter.

I don’t think I’ve ever been inside this market, but I’ve seen it from the outside a few times.

It is a typical small town establishment that is part grocery story and part community gathering spot.

Note the bulletin board sandwiched between the ubiquitous ice storage locker and the wooden front doors plastered with decals promoting various products.

More than any other place in town everyone goes to Maxine’s, even those who complain about having to drive some distance to shop at a real supermarket. There probably are some who find that Maxine’s has what they need.

Places like Maxine’s can never hope to match the selection of a Walmart supercenter, but it has an ambience that those big box stores can never match even if they claim to be about small town values.

Regardless of what the folks of Milltown think about this market, all of them would miss it if it went away.