From my 5th year until my 17th I lived in Eldorado, Illinois. My mom and dad were experiencing marital troubles and their solution was to move from Chicago to Eldorado where many of my moms’ family resided. Dad had a good job in Chicago and had no job when we arrived in Eldorado. We moved into a massive white house on Illinois Avenue across from the High School Football Field. The house had 12-foot ceilings and a fireplace in each room. There was a coal-fired furnace in the basement. I slept in the utility room that was just wide enough for a single bed…I had to crawl to the foot of the bed to make my exit from the room. My cousin Brenda, whose family was sharing the large Ghost House with us, walked with me to and from Hillcrest School. She was in the 8th grade and I was beginning the 1st.
Trepidation is what I felt on my first day…but Janie and Debbie were so nice to me…I forgot my fear. My family and I would sit on the front of the wrap-around porch of the Ghost House and watch the Eldorado Eagles play football. It was very different than what I was accustomed to…and cold and fun. I loved Mrs. Kittinger, my first-grade teacher. She was kind and considerate. She was not able to finish the year…and I was sad… Dad started a Mechanic Business with his buddy, Bob Winters, and it seemed to be going good for a new venture…but the union between mom and dad…was lost.
Orpheum Theatre was my church. I spent every Sunday in its’ welcome confines. In those days I paid my 35 cents for my ticket and then purchased popcorn and a coke and a candy bar…and had some money left from my dollar movie budget. I sat and watched the movie…3 and sometimes 4 times. I found something new in each viewing.
Dennis and I concocted a plan that when the old gentleman who took the tickets at the Orpheum asked us to walk to the Dairy Queen to buy him some Marlbourghs…that we would get a pack for ourselves. Along with the Marlbourghs we purchased Barbecued Potato Chips…to cover the scent of our illicit tobacco. When questioned, once, by a DQ attendant…we noted that we were purchasing Marlbourghs for the Old Gentleman who cut the tickets at the Orpheum…as everyone knew him.
I visited Eldorado…yesterday. It had been more than 20 years since I walked the streets of the city. I recall when the parking was stripped on the Town Square for cars to park diagonally and it was somewhat difficult for two cars to pass each other between the parked automobiles that were partially in the street. I photographed the old city hall which is now apparently a museum. My uncle Bill was a police officer there…many years ago.
As I was walking down the streets of Eldorado…a man roughly my age was riding a bicycle toward me. As he passed he said, ‘How are you buddy,? and I responded that I was fine…and I inquired as to his well-being…to which he gave me a sly grin and a knowing eye… I wondered if he was one of my classmates…