Beer Can Alley

If you’ve driven around in the country by Salem, this serene scene might be familiar…

Beer Can Alley, a name that appears to make no sense now, was once lined with beer cans, among other things. That changed dramatically when the recycling movement really took off in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Fortunately, the stretch of road was cleaned up, but the name Beer Can Alley stuck. Locals still affectionately use the name. It remains a beautiful, fairytale-like path to memories of home or visits to Salem for many.

This photo card is now available in the A Slice of Southern Illinois collection at Irons in the Fire, downtown Carterville.

https://instagram.com/ironsinthefire_?igshid=x451gntejvj2

Saturday in Salem

A Slice of Southern Illinois had the pleasure of spending this past Saturday in Salem participating in the vendor fair for Royal Kids Camp and visiting familiar Salem icons. Each vendor donated items to the quarter auction to raise money for foster kids from group homes and in foster families to be able to attend the special camp this summer. Even though the weather outside was rainy and chilly, we had a great time.

I grabbed lunch at the concession stand at the event. Evergreen Christian Church does in fact have some great noodle makers. The nachos supreme looked pretty good too.

My young interns drove through one of the spots that former Salemites tend to visit when they come home: Chico’s Mexican American Restaurant.

After the craft show, we had an opportunity to visit family in the area. Then this Salem Wildcat/Selmaville Rocket alumnus decided to drive around a bit. I didn’t go by as many places as I wanted to see because the weather was not ideal. I did parallel park across from Sweney’s Drug Store, or rather, where it stood, to take some pictures. The building has been gone at least a couple of decades, but there is now mural on what was once an inside wall.

Sweney’s was not only a pharmacy. They sold gift items and had an elaborate soda fountain. Back in the day, Sweney’s was known for their five cent Cokes. I can remember standing in line at the pharmacy counter with my mom as a young child. On a weekend, I would be listening to Casey Kasem host “America’s top 40” on WJBD radio and staring with fascination at the huge, decorative glass container of blue liquid. I always wondered what was in that thing. At Christmastime, my parents would get boxes of chocolates at Sweney’s to give as presents. I liked to watch the store clerk expertly wrap each box.

The ABC Pub sits next to Sweney’s Corner. Of course, I have no childhood memories at pubs or bars, and I’m really not sure if they served food when I was living at Salem. I do know that it is now known for having great food. A few years ago, my high school class had our reunion there. The food was wonderful, the people were nice, and it was a lot of fun catching up with friends. We even walked next door as a class to Sweney’s Corner and released balloons in memory of classmates who are no longer with us.

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The old movie theater, now used for local and guest performances, sits across from the ABC Pub. The first movie I saw there as a kid was “The Unidentified Flying Oddball.” This was before everyone rented movies, multiplex cinema was everywhere, and you could just stream movies at home. We would wait with anticipation to see which movie came to town each week and looked forward to going to the show with friends on weekends. “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Secret of My Success,” “Big,” and many more great movies once graced that screen.

I finally got to visit GoGoGourmet in the newly rennovated Orchard strip mall (formerly Southern Gardens Shopping Center.) This is a place where I could really be a kid in a candy shop. I’m sure fellow foodies could relate. Lisa Lamb and her staff have done a great job with the shop. They had multiple gourmet teas, coffees, chocolate, and even a variety of finishing salts. We tasted some delicious dip mixes, dipping oils, and balsamic vinegars. I loved it. A surprise bonus was getting to visit with a friend at the shop who I had not seen since high school. We had a good time reminiscing and catching up with each other.

After we left GoGoGourmet, we headed toward Selmaville School. We inadvertently took a long route because things looked so different on roads that I used to know by heart. Houses where I played with friends and attended slumber parties have been remodeled, and there are more houses scattered along the way. I’m glad that I didn’t get us lost. That would have been embarrassing.

Perhaps if you listen really closely when you pull up to the school, you can still hear the echo of Mrs. Steinman’s seventh graders reciting their pronouns: “Subjective: I, you, he, she, it, we, they…” We really did have great teachers who cared about us and our futures. There are many great memories tied to that school. We were fortunate to be able to learn from many things beyond just books and classroom instruction.

Selmaville may have been a small school, but we had opportunities. It was a time before so much academic testing, increased regulations, and lofty government expectations that we could still be kids. We didn’t worry about being embarrassed on social media because unless the Salem Times Commoner or our small class newspaper printed it, it wasn’t going to be online for the world to see. “Online” was just bad grammar for being “on the line” in P.E. or sports. We still had class Room Mothers who were allowed to bring homemade treats.

We had good coaches, sponsors, and a wonderful music teacher that inspired me to pursue my music degree. Schoolmates and I lobbied for and eventually got to see and play on the school’s first girls’ basketball team. (They have come a LONG way since then.) We had a marching band and flag corp that actually placed in parades. If a sports team or the band did well at a competition or event, we were met with a police escort as we neared the school. We felt supported by our community. At ballgames, if it was a sport you didn’t play, you cheered on the Rockets and hung out with friends. We were not glued to cell phones. Granted, I couldn’t get by with anything too “horrendous” though because my dad was the principal…news did travel quick in a small school. Even if you were just making a mess by helping friends at your lunch table “operate” on green beans.

I thank God that many of us from my class stay in touch with each other. Part of me is sad that my kids did not have the full opportunity for the experiences that I had at Selmaville.

Eventually, we met my family at Pizza Man, another one of the places Salem people often crave when they move out of town. It was our opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day and a couple birthdays together. Of course, the Family Pleaser with the famous French dressing (seriously, people buy it in containers to take home…) and Little Egypt Special was wonderful. (I also love the Salem Special, but not everyone likes olives and jalapeños…)

After dinner, it was still a bit rainy, but I wanted to show my faithful interns the Dairy Mart, a seasonal favorite that has been in Salem as long as I can remember. As a kid, my brother and I couldnt tolerate cow’s milk, but we were able to get slushies. My childhood favorite was the Grasshopper Slushie. No insects were harmed in the making of the minty ice drink, but it was grasshopper green. I dont think it has been on the menu for at least one decade though. Initially, I planned to just drive by and snap a few photos since we had just stuffed ourselves at Pizza Man. Then I saw the drive thru… I decided that since I would not have to get out of the car again, I shouldn’t pass the opportunity for one of their iconic lemon soft serve icecream cones…It was the perfect, sweet way to top off a visit to my hometown.

Easter Celebrations in Southern Illinois

Easter is quickly approaching. There are many celebrations planned in Southern Illinois. These range from special worship services on Resurrection Day to specialty Easter Egg Hunts.

One of the sure signs that Easter was coming as a little kid was that the candy isle in Tresslar’s at Salem filled with beautiful Easter candies and baskets. We may have had palm leaves at church for Palm Sunday to represent Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. We had Easter parties in elementary school, and our class Room Mothers always treated us well. (Perhaps I’m biased, but Selmaville School District had some of the best.)

As I got older, I became more aware of Lent, and the practice of giving up something to symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice. If you drive through Southern Illinois, or much of the United States during the 40 days before Easter, you might notice restaurants advertising fish on Fridays for those not eating other meat. Eggs may be on sale (and possibly sold out) during the week before Easter along with various types of food safe dye and likely vinegar. The smell of vinegar to this day reminds me of dying Easter eggs as a kid. We often had the egg dye kits with the little color tablets that dissolved in vinegar…

Some places will be closed on Good Friday, the day representing the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. Even more places will be closed Easter Sunday. I had always assumed it was this way everywhere until I visited my grad school roommate and her family in Costa Rica. Many people there have vacation during Semana Santa (Holy week.) On Good Friday, towns reenact Jesus carrying the cross with a parade and people portraying various characters. It is a beautiful and sobering experience. Not only are many things closed on Good Friday, some do not even drive that day. While we tend to close things on Easter Sunday in the United States to allow people time off to celebrate with family, many things reopen on Sunday there. This is because Ressurection Sunday is the day to rejoice again. Closing on Good Friday and reopening on Easter for some symbolizes a period of mourning followed by rejoicing in celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.

I can remember hearing about people gathering for Sunrise Services at Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass for as long as I’ve been on this earth. My parents used to talk about how our postal carrier was one of the many people who helped in the initial building of the cross. We made trips to visit it many times. Although the little road leading to the cross was a bit scary, the view from the hill was gorgeous.

I’ve heard that the Easter morning services are beautiful–and sometimes a bit chilly up there. This year, there is even a concert planned at the cross the night before Easter.

It seems Good Friday 2019 will be a little cooler than some. In Southern Illinois, Easter weather can be pretty much anything. I can remember an Easter as a child visiting my aunt in the hospital at Flora. It was so hot that day that some of our candy in the car started melting. In a more recent year, my kids hunted Easter eggs with light snow in the air.

Although this is by far not an exhaustive list of Easter events in Southern Illinois, a few highlights are listed below. Links to events in Southern Illinois are listed in the Events section of this website as well as the ASOSI app.

ALTO PASS

4/20/19 Worship at the Crosshttps://www.facebook.com/events/1311521015664614/?ti=as

4/21/19 83rd Annual Easter Sunrise Service https://www.facebook.com/events/1311521015664614/?ti=as

CARBONDALE

4/21/19 #EasteratCornerstoneSI https://www.facebook.com/304723258405/posts/10156511171898406/

COBDEN

4/20/19 Adult Easter Egg Hunt at Starview Vineyardshttps://www.facebook.com/events/243137456640250/?ti=as

CRAINVILLE

4/20/19 Easter Egg Hunt at Love & Truth Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/382060802585678/?ti=as

DUQUOIN

4/21/19 Easter: Egg Hunt, BBQ,iPad & Xbox Giveaway, Three Bounce Houses at Sunfield Baptist Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/288297261865558/?ti=as

EFFINGHAM

4/20/19 Easter Eggstravganza

JOHNSTON CITY

4/20/19 Johnston City Easter Egg Hunthttps://www.facebook.com/events/2085667121524160/?ti=as

MARION

4/19/19 Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at The Vault Café on the Squarehttps://www.facebook.com/events/407081753462594/?ti=as

4/19/19-4/21/19 #EasteratCornerstoneSIhttps://www.facebook.com/304723258405/posts/10156511171898406/

4/20/19 Easter Fun with Franklin County 4-H at Black Diamond Harley Davidsonhttps://www.facebook.com/events/699596973789077/?ti=as

4/20/19 Easter Glow Egg Skate at Emery Brothers Skating Rinkhttps://www.facebook.com/events/2592037817479789/?ti=as

4/20/19 Easter Egg Hunt at Whiteash Free Willl Baptist Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/263642884579527/?ti=as

WEST FRANKFORT

4/20/19 West Frankfort Easter Egg Hunt https://www.facebook.com/events/200723847536342/?ti=as

My Mom’s Christmas Tray

I have a confession to make. As a child I never understood why so many people hated fruitcake, or even why it was called “cake.” You see, my Mom’s fruitcake was more like candy. She got the recipe from a fancy restaurant somewhere, and it was pretty much pecans and candied fruit.

Every year, growing up in Tonti, our family Christmas tradition was that my parents would make the fruitcake and chocolate fudge. We had to make sure to save grocery bags (they were paper…) as the recipe specified that the fruitcake be baked on brown paper bags. My mom had a golden tray for serving the fruitcake as well as homemade fudge, and eventually, my dad’s snickerdoodles. She kept a supply of these treats in the freezer to pull out for company through the Christmas season. My mom also made wonderful Swedish tea rings.

I recently found my Mom’s golden tray again, and I can’t explain how happy I was to be reunited with it. This tray triggered lots of warm, family memories.

After Thanksgiving, my family would decorate for Christmas. My mom had decorations for the entire two-story house. I tried to hang onto ones with sentimental meaning. Unfortunately, the historical May 8th Derecho of Southern Illinois destroyed some. She used to make a oragami-style poinsettia and a geometric figure ornaments that were amazing. Some house decorations were framed greeting cards–others things people had made. We had a Holiday Closet. The guest bedroom had a big, old-fashioned closet (our home had been a boarding house in the 1800’s) where seasonal decorations and home-canned goods were stored.

Christmas Cards that our family received went into a painted wooden card holder that was the same kind my parents had bought for people as Christmas gifts the first year they were married. Believe it or not, their Anniversary was Christmas Eve. At the time, both were teaching, and that was when they could be off work. My brother and I had Christmas stockings that my Mom’s cousin made for us. Since we did not have a fireplace, and the wood burning stove would not have been a safe spot for them, they always hung on the handles of the pie safe in the dining room.

My dad took care of the outdoor decorations, and I loved to help. We would wrap red plastic ribbon around the white porch posts to resemble peppermint sticks–something I still prefer to do… The old school mutli-color large bulb stands of lights went on the porch and around the living room picture window. A plastic textured Rudolph, purchased from 4-H club fundraiser, was hung on the porch.

Eventually, we added the lighted nativity scene. My mom and I somehow managed to get this home from a trip to Olney. We hadn’t thought about it not fitting in the Granada. So, we had to take everything out of the box to squeeze the plastic figures into the car… I was able to hang onto it and use it several years. Things went downhill when Baby Jesus and Mary wouldn’t light up anymore. I was afraid people would think I was being disrespectful or protesting if only Joseph was illuminated…

Not only did we have a few lights, our family loved to visit light displays. Pretty much every year, we went to Ingraham’s display near Olney and Candy Cane Lane in West Frankfort. We often visited the light display in the Olney Park as well. When I was 7, I had Chicken Pox on Christmas. That was the year I remember visiting Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

Candy Cane Lane, West Frankfort

Shopping malls used to be a destination as much to see the Christmas decor as to shop. Every year, there used to be sparkly Christmas trees on the roof of the Centralia strip mall. Carbondale, Effingham, and Fairview Heights all had malls that were nicely decorated. My brother and I sometimes saw Santa Claus at a store, but we also used to go to Xenia when he came to town.

We visited lots of family at Christmastime. I think probably every Christmas Eve I can remember was at my aunt and uncle’s home in Goreville and eventually Marion. We usually visited with my Salem family on Christmas sometime after we had done the Christmas morning thing at home. I have many fond memories of these times. We ate wonderful food and often played board games or just joked around with cousins, aunts, and uncles. It may not have been on Christmas Day, but we also made the rounds to see family in Centralia, Cisne, and Kinmundy.

My kids have been fortunate to spend some Christmases playing with cousins when they were younger. Unfortunately, as people grow older and busier, we tend to lose some of that connection. I pray that you and your family are able to create and hold onto fond Christmas memories too.

Fourth of July Celebrations in Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois is home to many Fourth of July celebrations. This year, some start as early as June 28, and others are not until July 7. Hopefully, there is an event that fits everyone’s schedule.

This is by no means a list of all fireworks and celebrations in Southern Illinois, but there are links to some listed below in alphabetical order. Don’t forget that you can also use the ASOSI app (free for download in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store) to find locally-owned restaurants, things to see, and more listed by town.

Alton’s Fireworks Spectacular

7/3/18 https://m.riverbender.com/articles/details.cfm?id=29284

Anna Fourth of July Fireworks

7/4/18 https://m.facebook.com/AnnaFireRescue/photos/rpp.129931467063069/1962201633836034/?type=3&theater

Carbondale Fireworks Display

7/4/18 http://www.carbondalechamber.com/events/details/carbondale-fireworks-display-11266

Carlyle Lake’s Fireworks Spectacular

6/30/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/402437606891296/?ti=as

Carterville Independence Day Fireworks

7/4/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/748820481908623/?ti=as

Cobden, Reds, Whites & Brews at StarView Vineyards

6/30/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/174951883216665/?ti=as

DuQuoin Fireworks Display

7/3/18 http://www.duquointourism.org/index.php?mact=CGCalendar,cntnt01,default,0&cntnt01event_id=60&cntnt01display=event&cntnt01returnid=38

Farina 4th of July

7/4/18 https://www.facebook.com/farina4thofjuly/

Golconda 4th of July Festival and Fireworks

7/6/18 http://www.mainstreetgolconda.org/events/867/

Goreville Freedom Fest 2018

7/4/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/257693818066987/?ti=as

Grand Tower Fireworks & More

6/30/18 https://m.facebook.com/119685634710279/photos/pcb.2062347187110771/2062347043777452/?type=3&theater

Herrin Park July 4th with Cat Daddy O Live, Special Night Swim, and Fireworks

7/4/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/2008279442722723/?ti=as

Johnston City Fireworks Spectacular

6/28/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/2084007911610976/?ti=as

Metropolis 2018 Hometown Celebration

7/7/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/194975364558523/?ti=as

Mt. Carmel’s Fantastic 4th Celebration

6/30/18-7/6/18 https://www.facebook.com/MTCFantastic4th/

Rend Lake Fireworks

6/30/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/553779568300298/?ti=as

Salem Celebrating Independence Day

7/4/18 https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157457794918154&id=183980713153

Memorial Day Traditions in Southern Illinois

Southern Illinoisans have a rich history of family-based Memorial Day Traditions. Some families gather for reunions and picnics. Others get together to honor the memory of loved ones by placing flowers on graves. Communities gather to remember and honor those who have served our country. Swimming pools open, and annual festivals bring people together to kick off the unofficial beginning of summer.

Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971. Its origins were in Decoration Day, which came from a need to deal with grief during the Civil War. It appears that many locations claim to be the founder of that holiday. With so many people now researching their heritage through DNA testing, it seems likely that even more will be at cemeteries this year to remember and learn about their ancestors.

For many years, East Lawn Cemetery in Salem (Marion County) would accommodate many visitors-both decendants of the Joles and Broadway families buried in East Lawn Cemetery and people driving by to watch them. In 1891, “Gypsy Sam” and Betsy Joles reportedly traveled through Salem during a journey from Ohio to Southern Missouri. While camping in Salem, they could view East Lawn Cemetery and thought it was beautiful. When their daughter died in Missouri, they returned to Salem for her burial. Unfortunately, another daughter passed away while they were in Salem and was also buried in East Lawn. These are the first two known graves that started the annual Memorial Day Weekend gypsy pilgrimages to Salem. For many years, the Broadway and Joles Family graves were adorned with beautiful, elaborate floral arrangements. Some of these depicted the loved ones hobbies or favorite foods. I can remember watching the procession of cars and all of the colorful decorations as a child. It really was a nice way that their family remembered their loved ones. Sadly, in recent years, there has not been as much decoration as in past decades.

Many communities will have ceremonies honoring those who have served our country. There is a Memorial Day Service planned at Mound City National Cemetery. The Carterville Lioness Club will once again have a beautiful display of flags at Cannon Park for their Military Salute.

Herrinfesta Italiana, an annual celebration of Herrin’s Italian heritage since 1981 is already in full swing. Carbondale has Memorial Day Sesquesentennial Observation planned. Marion will be holding Memorial Day at Ray Fosse Park. These are just some of the things going on throughout the weekend.

A link to information on some of the Memorial Day events in Southern Illinois will be available in the “Events” section of this website as well as the ASOSI app. The app is available for free download in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

Corn, Ranch Dressing, and Giardiniera

Contestant Robyn opened her cooler on this Sunday night’s episode of “Worst Cooks in America” and found the following three ingredients: corn, ranch dressing, and giardiniera. These foods had been chosen to represent Illinois. (Technically, the dart she threw at the map to choose her state landed in Southern Illinois –more specifically, Southwestern Illinois… ) I spent commercial breaks researching how ranch dressing and giardiniera were indicative of Illinois. Since the official state vegetable is sweet corn, the official state snack is popcorn, and as of this New Year’s Day, the official state grain is corn, I get that one.

An internet search revealed that giardiniera, a pickled vegetable condiment, is reportedly very popular in the Chicago area served with foods such as Italian beef and pizza. Guess what. Southern Illinois has some pretty great Italian food too (Can you say, “Herrinfesta Italiana?”) We also have locally made giardiniera. Louie’s Seasonings in Johnston City makes both hot and mild giardiniera as well as muffaletta and olive salads.

As for the ranch dressing….well, that one was more of a stretch for me. The best I could determine is that it was perhaps a veiled nod to Miracle Whip. Although it is not mayonnaise, it has similar color and appearance. Ranch dressing often has mayonnaise in it. As for the Miracle Whip connection to Illinois, it has been reported to have been developed in Salem. Originally, it was said to be Max Crosset’s X-tra Fine Salad dressing as used in Max Crosset’s Cafe. He reportedly sold its recipe to Kraft Foods for $300 in 1931. As with other things (like internet and sticky notes…) there are some conflicting reports regarding the invention of the famous salad dressing.

Whether or not she was familiar with Illinois or the three ingredients, Contestant Robyn did win the burger creation challenge for the Red Team. In fact a couple of the ingredients she chose to incorporate into her burger creation had elements that are representative of Southern Illinois: pepperjack cheese and barbecue sauce. Peppers seem to grow well here. Darn Hot Peppers has a wide variety of products featuring them. Good BBQ is also readily available in Southern Illinois. 17th Street Bar & Grill, Smoked to the Bone, Pat’s BBQ, The Wylde Hog, and Southern Que are just some of the options. Chef Anne seemed impressed with the Illinois burger, and it did look delicious.