Where has the time gone? How has Carlinville changed?

Where has the time gone? How has Carlinville

By Ann Reichmann
It started a few months ago with a phone call from a high school friend – a friend I haven’t seen or even spoken to since 1972 — at my high school’s 25th reunion for the class of 1947. That means it was 66 years ago when I marched down an auditorium aisle with my graduating class, gleefully accepted my diploma, threw my four-squared hat into the air and went rushing into the world of adults – or so I thought.  “Hey Ann,” said the voice on the phone. “Is this really YOU? Are you still living the life of a farmer’s wife down there in Southern Illinois?”

Well, what’s a girl to say except the truth! But before I could answer, she threw me a few more questions. “Honestly now – don’t you miss Chicago? Don’t you miss all the things there are to do here? The places to go; the things to see?” And before I could answer those questions, she added one more. “I’ve always wanted to ask you. What keeps you there? What in the world does Carlinville, Illinois have that you couldn’t find here in Chicago?”

Well, the most obvious answer I guess was “Doc Reichmann.” However her phone call could not have come at a more opportune moment. For the past few weeks, I have been discussing with the Carlinville Enquirer-Democrat the possibility of reviving the column “Now and Then in Carlinville.” As I told my high school friend, I’m simply happy in Carlinville. It has been a great place to raise our children and to see our grandchildren grow up! Even better, now great-grandchildren are coming along. Add to that, I think about all of the high school and Blackburn College students I have had the opportunity to know and work with. Now many of those young people are sending THEIR children and grandchildren into the schools to carry on the traditions and the values of the town and the district. It is such fun to walk around the Square or down a street, seeing so many people I know and hearing, “Hi! Mrs. R.” It absolutely makes my day. And that’s just the short list of all the delightful aspects of this town that make it a terrific place to live and raise a family.

Perhaps I should start with a comment that I first heard on a sunny Wednesday morning in the fall many years ago as I stood getting acquainted with a Carlinville citizen named “Chirpy!” At least that’s what we called him. That would be Melvin Churovich, our best-remembered policeman in charge of the parking meters on the Square. Oh, don’t you remember that Carlinville went “modern” there for a few years in the traffic department? You bet we did! We not only had parking meters imbedded every 10 feet on the outer sidewalks around the Square, we also concreted in those money-makers all around the circular park in the middle of the Square-the one filled with green grass, trees, sidewalks and benches for those who need to rest a while.

Chirpy was the perfect man for the job!  He loved people and his job. He took it seriously. He made sure that the meter funds rolled in. The fees were one penny for 12 minutes of parking and a nickel for one hour’s worth. Chirpy tolerated no vandalism on his watch. He tolerated no cheating. And he did it with a smile.

Even more than that, Chirpy knew that sometimes elderly people or handicapped people had trouble getting back to their cars in 12 minutes. They weren’t always able to park right next to the store they were “visiting.” And many moved slowly. Chirpy also knew that some people didn’t actually have a spare penny or nickel; so he always carried pennies in his pocket – his own pennies – just in case an elderly or slowed-down driver didn’t quite make it back to the meter on time or had actually run out of pennies.

I was fascinated by this man. He loved Carlinville, and he loved to “sing” its specialness. “You may not believe it,” Chirpy said to me one day, “you can be born here, go all the way through school here, marry here, have children and grandchildren, have a successful career, grow old, die, and never HAVE to leave Carlinville to have all that happen. Everything people need is here, as well as happiness. People just don’t realize it.” You may not remember Melvin Churovich, but I do. His positive attitude made any day brighter.

Notice that Chirpy didn’t say one HAD to stay here for happiness. He simply said to me on another day, “It absolutely can be done, but people rarely stop to look at that reality.” I remember those two mornings and the things he said because as much as I liked him and saw the gentle goodness in him, I wasn’t sure, at first, that he was telling me the truth; yet I wanted to believe him. So, yes, I came in 1947. I met a dairy farmer on a blind date. I had never met a farmer of any kind before I arrived in Carlinville. I honestly thought they all wore straw hats and bib overalls, chewed on toothpicks –  and that made a farmer a farmer. (I saw too many movies.) I had every plan to finish my two years at Blackburn, go back to the BIG CITY and “live life.”

Now 66 years later, I realize I HAVE lived life in a great little town. I also know that my friend Chirpy was right. Life IS what we make it and we can always work to make it better. I hope as we look back through memories, we will enjoy remembering and taking another look together. Of course, we have many traditions that Carlinvillites enjoy. Some are still alive and well. And truthfully there are some traditions that maybe we should put to bed. But overall, I truly hope that our look back will be fun for readers, both old and young. Maybe it is time to give Carlinville A “THANK YOU” for what we have endured and survived and what we have enjoyed and what is worth holding on to.

If you have some ideas of items or ideas,  things that we especially enjoy as a community, please send me a message at the Enquirer-Democrat’s office. I will do my best to get back to you.