Getting acquainted with ‘The Town’

Getting acquainted with ‘The Town’

Hoping to give readers a sense of life in Carlinville in the 1940s, and even farther back, our last column walked readers up West Main Street ­— building by building — store by store.

This time, let’s look at Carlinville from the eyes of “just arriving” Blackburn College students.

These new students represented just about every “walk of life” — they came from big cities, small towns, farms, and a few from foreign countries.

We had come up West Main Street with a fictitious load of new Blackburn students hoping to give readers a sense of life in Carlinville in the 1940s and give credit to the wide variety of businesses that kept Carlinville on the map and growing. This week we’ll push ahead and get those freshmen delivered to the college. In the coming weeks, we will go back and hit the Square HARD — as well as East Main Street

On the wonderful arrival day for my group (class of 1947-1949) we rode up West Main in cars and trucks provided by college and town members, followed by accommodating area farmers in their trucks.

Up West Main we  traveled,  rode half-way around the Square, turned down East Main Street and “dropped our  teeth” when the Macoupin County Courthouse came into view! That building was a WOW! Even more, we passed a beautiful church — a hospital — and an impressive funeral home. When we turned the corner at College Avenue to head for Blackburn, someone riding in one truck said, “Hey! This is some town! We could be born, married and buried without turning a corner.”

Then someone added “And sentenced to jail as well.” (Not everyone had spotted the jail.)

College Avenue was a treat!  I loved the houses — some big, some little — but all neatly cared for, close enough together for neighboring, yet far enough for privacy.

And trees! Everywhere I looked as we rode down the street there were trees!  What a treat to see for those of us from larger towns and cities.  I remember people in their College Avenue yards waving to us as we rode by! There were even “Welcome!” signs along the way. Things were looking good!

I was used to crowded streets and sidewalks, buildings — 20 stories high and more — jammed close together, people scurrying to get where they were going with little time or caring to wave to people in the streets! This was different — almost scary, but also peaceful.  When we pulled into the entrance of Blackburn, I was awed.

Big brick buildings scattered across the campus and lush green grass everywhere I looked.

Blackburn had two girls’ dorms: Butler Hall and Stoddard Hall. I was assigned to Butler Hall — first floor — with a roommate from Hardin, Illinois “over by the river!”

Her name was Mary Bo Aderton.

Mary Bo had a personality that wouldn’t let you go 10 minutes without laughing.  Besides that, Mary Bo could come as close to breaking a rule without actually tearing it apart as anyone I ever met.  And she could talk and smile her way out of anything!

In most ways, she was the perfect roommate one could have. I learned early to let Mary Bo do the “explaining” if we were ever questioned about some of the events that occurred.

By the time she told her “version,” the   inquiring investigator was laughing too hard, and entranced too far to do much more than say, “You girls! What will we do with you?”

There we were, away from home for the first time ever — in college for sure — yet not exactly sure why, but ready to find out!

We arrived on that Saturday and worked hard to get to know the other girls in Butler Hall. And we learned all the “rules and regs” of Blackburn life, as well as  Mrs. Brockman’s plans to keep us safe and sound.
Mrs. Brockman was the Butler Hall housemother. And believe me, she mothered. During that first week, we were all assigned to our 15 hour a week work jobs. I got breakfast crew. That consisted of five hours a morning, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

So yes, I rolled out of bed at 4:45 a.m., threw on a pair of blue jeans and a sweatshirt, broke the Olympic speed records tearing across the totally dark campus and leaped into the kitchen in the basement of Stoddard Hall.

You see, I was from the “scary” city,  where you trusted NO ONE after dark. So I wasn’t lolly-gagging so early in the a.m.

The job was a chore for someone who had never cooked anything more than a soft-boiled egg. Mrs. Bishop was the dietician. She planned the menus and ordered the groceries and WE learned what to do and how to do it!

It meant setting the tables in the dining room, following the prepared list of foods — everything from orange juice to cereals (cold and hot) French toast or pancakes, making coffee, brewing tea and toasting whatever needed toasting, AND running the dishwasher —  when it worked —  or washing  dishes  by hand when it didn’t. This may not sound like hard work, but it was hard for ME who was used to orange juice and cornflakes for breakfast every morning.

I will also admit, the most fun of the morning breakfast crew were Joe Hoelting and his friend who delivered produce to the Blackburn kitchen.

Now let me end this with a bit of history.

Remember that first week we were all getting acquainted. A good number of girls in Butler Hall were returning sophomores. Two – who lived in the room next door to Mary Bo and me apparently had found “friends” the year before among some of the Carlinville “town boys.” Oh mercy!

That was not encouraged by Mrs. Brockman.

Along about Thursday night of the first week, two of those girls came sailing into our room. “Hey Ann” one said.” We are going on a picnic Saturday night at the Gillespie Country Club with some really   nice town guys we met last year. They’re really fun and nice! The girlfriend of one of our friends we met last year didn’t come back this year, so we want to get him a blind date so he can come to the picnic, too!  We need a short girl for a short farmer. Would you like to come along?”

Well, I didn’t have a date — we had only been there three full days, and I had never been on a “blind date.” Nor had I ever met a farmer!! But I thought, well, why not? It beats having nothing to do!

So I went. We had a  great time,  I’m still picnicking with him. We were married in 1951. And that’s what college can do for you!

By the way, wonderful  letters have arrived from many  natives  of  Carlinville,  and I would love to hear from  readers   about their favorite stores on the Square over the years.   You can write me at:

Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat
125 East Main Street
Carlinville, IL 62626

If you address it to me, they will get your letter to me.