Benny and Brenda across the street from Jim and Lee Caldwell's house.

The last couple of nights I’ve been going through old pictures, less-old pictures, and newer pictures picking out just the right ones for cookbooks I started a year or so ago for my siblings.  In doing that, I can’t help but reminisce, and this photo makes me think about Lee, Mom’s good friend for many, many years. 

Lee lived across the street from us when we were small, she and Jim, her husband, a tall, thin man who loved children.  Lee loves to tell stories about the neighborhood children coming to the house and asking Lee if “Jim could come out and play.”  She would look to him to see if it was a nod or a head shake and respond accordingly.  “Well, for a little while,” or “No, he can’t come out right now.”  The latter response would prompt a frown and the child relating the story to the parent with the addendum that “Lee won’t let Jim come out and play.”  She gets a kick out of telling this story and laughs gleefully.

She also gets a kick out of telling the story about my brother and I coming over to “help” Jim work in the yard.  Benny was six; I was four.  We, as the story goes, (I can’t remember it) were helping with the hard labor of picking up sticks out of the yard.  When it was all said and done, Jim says, “Well, I think that deserves an ice cream cone, don’t you?”  That was back in the day when the town boasted a Dairy Dream, two hardware stores, a dry cleaner, a Five and Dime, three or four clothing stores, a drug store (where we got the most delicious cherry cokes at the counter), a newspaper, at least one car dealership, multiple filling stations, and multiple grocery stores.  Whew!  I know I’m leaving out a bunch of things.  Oh, yeah!  A hospital, a dentist, a bank, the post office; of course, the court house.  And can’t forget the taverns.  There were as many of those as there were churches.  In other words, a real town, a town full of life, a town where people bought and sold from each other, did their living and made their living in the town they lived in. 

But back to that delicious ice cream cone.  It must have been delicious because the next day, Lee says, here comes Benny knocking on the door.  When Jim comes to the door, Benny looks at him and says, “Do you think we better pick up more sticks today?”  And the good man that Jim was, said, “No, I don’t believe we need to today.  But how about we go get an ice cream cone?”

I love that story.  And I love all those good people from my childhood that seem to be disappearing right before my eyes. 

Ms. Lee still lives in the little house you see in the picture, where she has lived for decades.  It looks a little different now with a carport added, a few changes here, a few there.  Go by in the summer and she will be sitting in her swing, ready to regale you with wonderful stories of her youth (The Birger Gang!) or wonderful stories from your youth.

www.carolyar.com/Illinois/Govern/Birger.htm

www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Birger

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