My kind of town…

If you took a look at my post from yesterday – If brilliance could be canned, like spam… – you probably noticed that I didn’t exactly do a lot of writing.  Instead, I gave you a list and some videos.  Some of those videos were really good.  Some of those videos were really scary.  One was actually instructional (who made it all the way to the plumbing video on sweating your pipes?).

Well, today, I wanted to make sure I actually did write something.  BUT…I still want to share a video.  I think it’s on topic.  After watching it, can you guess what today’s word at oneword.com was?

There was another that I wanted to include, but I couldn’t get the code to embed it.  😦  The other song was called “When You Walk Down Mainstreet With Me.”  It’s a lovely little song and dance number performed by the absolutely fantabulous Gene Kelly and the very beautiful Vera-Ellen.

Have you figured it out yet?  Today’s word is “town”.

I’d like to talk a bit about my town…Blue Island, Illinois.  This area is actually on a glacial ridge that was actually an island about 14,000 years ago – when the Great Lakes were still Lake Chicago.  Settlers gave the area the name because, from a distance, it appeared as an island rising up from a blue fog or mist.

You’ve likely never heard of Blue Island.  That’s okay.  I forgive you.  Even people in Chicago haven’t heard of Blue Island.  Considering the number of suburbs that exist in the Chicagoland area, I’m not surprised. And, hey, we’re not that big – only 4 square miles.  At first glance, I guess it’s not particularly remarkable.

But it has an interesting history.  Here are some highlights about Blue Island (you thought I was going to give you the full, blow-by-blow history, didn’t you?  HA!  No, for that you can go to Wikipedia – which is were I started my research some months back):

  • The first settler built, first, a tavern and later a hotel to serve people travelling to Chicago and Fort Dearborn – Remember, in the early 1800s, it took a day to travel the 16 mile distance.
  • Some of the early industries in Blue Island included breweries (until prohibition) and brick-making (in the 1880s, we were the brick-making capital of the world).
  • This is a major “hub” for the rail industry – the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad had a yard here; this is a major stop for the Metra and Metra Electric.
  • Gary Sinise was born in Blue Island.
  • We’ve had a lending library of some sort since 1845. Neat!!  It started when a guy with a lot of books decided to allow people to borrow them for a small fee.  A Carnegie grant in the 1890s helped the town to build a “real” public library.
  • Martial law was imposed in Blue Island in 1894 when rail and brick workers rioted during the Pullman Strikes. (These strikes were encouraged by Eugene V Debs)
  • There are around 21 places of worship
  • The USS Blue Island Victory served from 1945 until 1972 and is now a museum in Los Angeles.
  • Hollywood seems to love Blue Island – many movies have been filmed (in part) in Blue Island.  Flag of our Fathers has Blue Island in it…just a bit, at the end of the movie.  But, it’s Blue Island and Krueger’s funeral home (est. 1858) is very evident.  The ladies in the library didn’t know what to do with themselves when Clint Eastwood took over the library for his filming.  There used to be a subway place down the street on Western Ave – Michael J. Fox filmed there.  Run down little place, too…it’s been torn down.
  • Blue Island is a Preserve America Community
  • Metro South Medical Center (Formerly St Francis) is a regional hospital with an award-winning cardiac center. (Unfortunately, I know this hospital too well.  Far too well.)
  • I live in Blue Island!  (That’s a noteworthy highlight, isn’t it?)

It’s a great little place, I’ll tell you that!  I have so many memories from when I was a kid and lived here before we moved to California.  I would come back during some summer vacations and stay with my gram.

I remember the 4th of July was one of the best holidays!  In those days, the parade would start in downtown Blue Island – about a mile south of were we live – and it would travel all the way up Western Avenue.  Once the parade crossed 119th Street, it became a 2-city parade – Blue Island and Chicago.  My cousins and I would run to The Islander – that was a local drug store that was about a block from the house.  I’m amazed at what we were able to buy for $1 – and we each used every penny of our dollars!  Then we would go back to the corner of Gram’s street, right on Western Avenue, and wait for the parade to come by.  After the parade, we’d run the 1/2 block back to Gram’s to tell all of the adults about the parade. The rest of the day would be spent playing with my cousins in “the field” – a large, open space next to the house to our left.  There’s a house there now.  It’s funny – we thought “the field” was so huge and now there’s this little square house sitting on that land.

I’ve always felt safe in Blue Island.  We have great neighbors.  We have diverse neighbors – just on our block we are a mix of white, black, and brown.  (Go to just about any block in Blue Island and you’ll find the same.)  This is a neighborhood of people who watch out for one another.  We know just about everyone by name.  And if we don’t know names, we know what people drive…and if there’s a strange car outside someone’s house, the neighbors investigate to make sure everything is okay.  When we called an ambulance for my grandmother on the night before my uncle’s funeral, our neighbor didn’t stand at her window and watch.  No.  She was at the house in a flash, helping to move furniture out of the way so that the paramedics could get the gurney through the house.  When we left for to follow the ambulance to the hospital, she was there, sitting on the doorstep, to direct other people to the hospital.  She watched the house to make sure that no one went in – the paramedics had to take the front door off the hinges.  When Gram died, she and her husband were at the funeral.  The neighbors across the street – and their 2 grown daughters – came to the wake.  These are friends.

Yes, there are places in Blue Island that are sketchier than other places.  No, we can’t go wandering the streets at 3:30am and not have to worry.  Really, where can you do that these days?  But, overall, it’s a safe community.

This is my home.  I’ve spent more of my life actually living in other places, but this is home.  This is where I’m comfortable.  This is where my grandparents lived.  This is where my mother lives.

Blue Island is family.

So…what can you tell me about your town?  Go ahead, post a comment about your town.  I dare you!

One thought on “My kind of town…

  1. well i am from bridgeport,mi..where i grew up but moved to fenwick,mi..so now i am a country girl..i didn’t really care for where i lived but it was called genesse gardens..a sort of sub division of sorts..streets named after fruits and states..but most of us grew up together and most looked out for one another..would i ever go back?just to visit..

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