Let’s hear it for the Square-Part 1
When I first arrived in 1947, I remember thinking, “What a great spot in the center of town, AND YIPPEE! Look at all those stores!”
The Square seemed busy most every day in the 1940s, ’50s and ‘60s. During the day, a policeman watched over it, keeping traffic unclogged, and making sure all parkers put their pennies and dimes in the meters.
The Square activities were enjoyed by people of all ages, church denominations, social clubs and political points of view.
However, it didn’t take long in 1947 to discover that The Square was THE place to be on Friday nights not only for adults, but for the teen-aged crowd.
The most popular spot on the square for those teenagers was Rhiney Borman’s magical ice cream palace, The Honey Bee. It stood where Main Street Florist stands today.
If you aren’t old enough to know about “The Bee,” you have missed out on culinary perfection as far as young appetites were concerned and a teen-age “hang out” beyond your wildest dreams.
It wasn’t only Rhiney’s scrumptious hamburgers or the home-made ice cream treats, especially the Snow on the Mountains dish (homemade chocolate ice cream with marshmallow topping) or the Golden Delicious Delight (orange-juice and seltzer-based drink) or the luscious homemade candy that pulled in the teenagers, it was the cozy wooden booths, the blaring juke box and the feeling of a teen-age “home” that made the place so popular.
Adults were not unwelcome at the Honey Bee in the evenings, but they had more fun hitting the late-closing shops and the licensed eateries and “drinkeries” and leaving the nighttime Honey Bee booths to the young.
It was also a great spot because Rhiney kept things in order. Every one of every age knew they were expected to behave – so they did!
During the war, in addition to serving delicious food, Rhiney did his best to honor the Carlinville young people who were off in the world of combat.
During those years, the two big windows on the front of “The Bee” reminded Carlinville of those young men and women who were far from home, serving the country. One front window held pictures of those in active uniform.
The other big window held pictures of and honored those who had lost their lives and those who had earned a Gold Star for their sacrifice.
I had just left the world of high school — possibly the most self-centered yet “not sure” four years of anyone’s life. If not the same NOW, those WERE the years of self-examination by most adolescents who were unsure if they were passing life’s tests or failing them.
How did we look? Were our clothes really “in” — therefore, really RIGHT? Were our friends part of the popular crowd — the “RIGHT” people to “hang with?”
Did we listen to the right music, dance the right steps, like the right movies, go out for the right sports? Join the right clubs? Like the right teachers?
Those four high school years for my generation were fraught with all of those questions, and I remember that dateless Saturday nights “killed” the spirit and the self-confidence of many an adolescent.
For those reasons and others, Carlinville Friday nights really started the weekends, for grown-ups (single and married) and teenagers, gradeschoolers and little children as well.
As the years went on and football grew into such a Friday night draw in the fall, Square activity was often late getting started, but it didn’t drown out the “Let’s Hit the Square” festivities. They just reached their peak a bit later in the evening.
Friday night seemed to be the “come to town” night for many of the farmers and their families. Many of the farm-related equipment dealers set aside Friday nights for “open houses” with snacks and time to see the latest “machines” up close. It also allowed wives in general some shopping time so that Saturday they could finish spiffying up the house, cooking and baking for Sunday dinner, getting shoes shined and clothes ready for church, enjoying a Saturday night bath and being in the church pews by Sunday school time on Sunday morning.
Not everyone followed that pattern — but the majority seemed to do so.
Today’s world is no different. If you want to enjoy Carlinville, you can do it in dozens of ways — often on Friday nights and often in the park on the Square.
Maybe you want to enjoy a band concert presented by musicians of all ages and instruments in the park on the square.
Or try a Halloween parade that starts at Carlinville Plaza, moves up crowd-laden West Main Street, circles the park in the middle of town and finishes two or three blocks down North Broad!
The parade features the high school band, hand-designed and hand-constructed floats built by school children and varieties of clubs and organizations in town, or a “can you believe it?” creative float built and pulled by a creative, fun-based family, or a number of individuals in one-of-a-kind costumes who strut down the street having a ball.
Push ahead a few weeks and suddenly lighted Christmas trees coax the little people to the Square for Santa’s arrival in a once horse-led sleigh (and now on a fire truck) and three weeks when Santa sits in his little house, offering Ho Ho Ho’s and taking exciting Christmas “orders” from countless little believers.
Look ahead to luscious summer evening ice-cream socials, a 4th of July evening concert on the Square, a Lions Carnival in September, year-round money-raising lunch hours featuring tasty pork burgers to satisfy noon-time hungers, sponsored by countless organizations from the little Brownie Scouts to high school teams and community clubs.
Fairly new — when we consider long-held traditions —would be the Christmas Market which brings in huge tents offering all kinds of Christmas cheer and holiday ideas.
Santa strolls the park or sits in his magic tent and promises little ones that their Christmas dreams will come true.
The only thing that is missing today is a modern Honey Bee and a Rhiney Borman-like Golden Delicious Delight!
And maybe, just maybe, if you close your eyes and listen very hard, you’ll hear the wonderful notes of Glenn Miller’s In the Mood, whispering through the air. Ah! What memories!
The marvelous thing about all of these events is that you don’t have to be anything but who you are to take part in and enjoy them.
What doesn’t matter at all are age, gender, family name, church affiliation, address, job — nothing that separates people in general separates us as we take part in these community events.
And they never seem to grow too old for people or for dreams!
Aren’t we lucky?