Have you ever been in a place, whether a town or a business or an educational institution, and been taken aback by the empirical fact that you are the only one there?
For the past seven and one half years I have enjoyed attending movies, matinees usually, and often at the multiplex in our local mall. Often I could not help but notice that there were only two or three patrons, other than myself, and many times I was privileged to a private showing.
Or, remembering our church, and the difficulty I had in finding a parking space…a few years ago.
I grew up in the little Southern Illinois town of Eldorado, Illinois. When I was a child the town of over ‘5,000 Friendly People and One Old Sore Head,’ was bustling with two drug stores and a Ben Franklin Dime Store and the Orpheum movie theatre and a hardware store and a music store and P.N. Hirsch clothing store and two banks and much more.
In Eldorado’s zenith it had three movie theaters and was a bustling coal mining town. The last time that I was there, the town was made up of, primarily, antique stores…as are many of Southern Illinois towns and hamlets.
I recall our mall, fondly, it’s plethora of stores and eateries and a theatre which had four theaters within it and the excitement that was occurring around the area and the invitation of the marquees to come in and lose yourself in a movie.
Mary Jane and I bought our wedding rings at the mall in 1978…they were about $100.00 apiece…and I was excited regarding the possibilities of living near Carbondale as a newly married man with the ability to purchase wedding rings.
The mall was a destination of choice for me when I lived fifteen miles away in the village of Elkville. Mary Jane and I often walked for health in the mall, and enjoyed the excitement of our region’s only small city.
I met the author Carl Bernstein at Southern Illinois University. I gave him a lapel pin, that former chancellor Jo Ann Argersinger, had given me…with the letters SIU. She had recently been unjustly terminated.
I met the author John Updike.
I also met the Holocaust survivor and author, Elie Wiesel.
Meeting Mr. Wiesel was a moving experience.
Carbondale had five, separate movie theatre locations when we moved here in 2001.
On a daily basis as I walked between campus buildings I experienced the crush of students endeavoring to change classes or, just, get to where they needed to be.
Famous Barr Department store built their facility at the mall. We had spent enough at Famous, in St. Louis, that we received an invitation for a pre-opening celebration. I saw my friend Dr. Beggs and his wife, Shirley, at the opening. I loved Famous Barr as it was the classiest store that I had ever been in. All of the sales staff were attired in dress clothes and if they waited on you, once or twice, they, thereafter, called you by name.
It has not been so long ago that our church was full and we, often, had to put out folding chairs to accommodate the parishioners and many visitors.
Our friend, Carol, cautioned us to come early to the Christmas Eve service…or it would be difficult to get a parking place or a seat.
When I began working for Building Services at SIU, in October, 1978…there was 175 full time staff and 120 student staff.
SIU is a ‘working family’s university’ and most of the students who attend desperately require their student work position in order to continue their studies.
A few years after I began my university career the housing department had to squeeze an additional bed into the two bed dormitory rooms…along with a third desk for the trio to all have a space to perform their ciphers.
For the first several years of my time at Southern, we received 8% pay raises annually.
Recently the civil service staff received 1%…and had received no raise for the past several years.
It would be an understatement to proclaim that now is the time for change!
Now is the time to unify around cogent and sincere university leaders who are striving to increase our university’s enrollment and magnify to the state and the country and the world…what a great place Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is.
The other day, and remember it is break, I sat by my favorite fountain…lonely.