Friday, July 24, 2015

Views From Old Hometown - Gillespie, IL

Gerry and I are visiting with family in Central Illinois for a week or so.  Our campground of choice is about 17 miles from my hometown of Gillespie.  Gillespie has a population of 3600 according to the latest population and has been the same size for many years.  There used to be a number of coal mines in the area and they closed in the 1950s and many jobs were lost forever.

Gillespie main street looking south
 The Illinois Terminal System used to run down the middle of the the main street.  The Illinois Terminal Railroad, known as the Illinois Traction System until 1937, was a heavy duty interurban electric railroad with extensive passenger and freight business in central and southern Illinois from 1896 to 1982. When Depression era Illinois Traction was in financial distress and had to reorganize, the Illinois Terminal name was adopted to reflect the line's primary money making role as a freight interchange link to major steam railroads at its terminal ends, Peoria, Danville, and St. Louis. Interurban passenger service slowly was reduced, and it ended in 1956. Freight operation continued but was hobbled by tight street running in some towns requiring very sharp radius turns. In 1986, ITR was absorbed by a consortium of connecting railroads.

 The building on the right used to be a bank and next to it on the left was the Woolworths Five & Ten store.  They had all sorts of nice things in the store and I enjoyed shopping there with the few dimes I had to spend. 

Another view looking south.  I stood in the road to take this picture.

I lived on Maple St near the Catholic Church whose steeple is on the left side of the photo.  About a block from where the picture was taken was the Big 4 train track which crossed the ITS.

 The building below with the false front is destined to become an outdoor beer garden one of these days.

 This theater showed first run films and it cost 9 cents to get in when I was a child.  Coming up with the 9 cents wasn't that easy for a 10 year old then.  The name of the theater has changed a number of times and a number of years ago the town was decorated with canna flower pots on main street.  That is when the name was changed to the Canna Theater.  I hear it's now being used as a church.

 Gillespie has always been a good baseball and softball town and the games were played at the Welfare Park.  The photo below is a softball field.  It was in immaculate shape and is well used to this day.

Softball field from left field
A baseball field was added a number of years ago after I left the area.  It also has a very nice playing surface and is popular with the local baseball players.

There have been many changes to my old hometown, some good and others bad.  The main street isn't as lively as it was in the 1950s and 1960s.  A number of businesses have closed and almost all of the bars/saloons have closed down.  We do have a Mexican and a Chinese restaurant in town now which is a big change from long ago.  There are two local car dealers which sell Fords and Chevys.  Big rivalry here between fans of each company with Ford leading the way.

Many of my friends have remained in the area and when I get a chance I look them up, plus I see them during the High School reunions.  Most of them look older now which is a surprise to me since I haven't changed.  Yah, right says Gerry.

At least the Dairy Queen is still open and serving great banana splits, cones and blizzards.  We visited it a couple times already and most likely will check it out again before we leave.

 My brother and his children have kept us busy with dinners out, visits and entertaining us.  It's great to see them and how well they are doing.

That is what we've been up to the last 4-5 enjoyable days.  

1 comment:

  1. I remember going to Woolworths. The penny candy was my favorite part...hehe

    Glad to read y'all are having a nice visit. Can't beat making memories with family.