As I went about my business in and around Havana this week taking care of errands, running in and out of stores and talking with everyone along the way, of course, the weather dominated as the topic of conversation. We all discussed how amazing the warm weather was last weekend, what we did with our time and how crazy it was to be running around in a tee shirt in January. Then toward the middle of the week everyone was talking about the impending doom of the forecasted winter snow storm. By the end of the week when I went to get my groceries on Friday afternoon, like I do just about 52 weeks out of the year, it was evident an apocalypse was looming. People were rushing about, overfilling their carts and generally filling the store with chatter about snow. I went about my business, crossed everything off my list, although I was sure had I gone a few hours later, there wouldn't have been much left on some of the shelves.
Fast forward to this morning, and we wake up to a lot of snow on the ground and see it blowing and snowing looking like a blizzard, and I just couldn't help but think about my childhood and what it meant to have an "Illinois winter". It could be that as I have gotten older my memory has changed or somehow altered what I thought happened, but I really don't ever once remember running around the yard in January in short sleeves, and I don't remember my parents doing yard work during the middle of an Illinois winter.
What I remember is once fall wrapped up and November came around it was usually pretty cold, and after Thanksgiving we started to get snow every year, and we basically had cold temperatures and snow all winter long until about March. I also remember being super excited to be able to go somewhere that had a big hill and sled down it! When I was very young, we lived in the 300 block of South Broadway, right across the street from the Havana Church of Christ. I learned to ride a bicycle in the church's big open parking lot. I can still picture in my mind, Dad running along side of me holding on to my banana seat and giving me a shove and letting go. That feeling of accomplishment and fear while I took my first solo cruise, and wondering if I could do it twice! In winter, I remember us bundling up and heading through the flat part of that parking lot, trekking our way up the back side of it, which led all the way up the big hill to Plum street, so we could slide back down toward the church. That was our winter fun! Running around the neighborhood playing with the other kids within a few blocks of our house, and sledding at the church.
In the winter of 1978, we moved from town to Sherwood Forest. We moved to the "country". Although it was technically a subdivision, the parcels were a full five acres each, and the first house had just been built a few years before we moved there, so the brand new houses were few and far between. The subdivision was very much in the country and the road that led through it was a narrow, gravel, washboard lane. We didn't have a lot of big sledding hills out there in Sherwood Forest, after all we were in rural Mason County, so we had to travel for our sledding fun from then on. Anytime we got a decent amount of snow and my brother and I wanted to go sledding, we would bundle up, load sleds in the back of Dad's truck and he would take us sledding! Many times we would end up at Riverfront Park. Most anyone who spent time as a child in Havana will surely have a memory of sledding down the big hill at Riverfront Park, and probably an equally prominent memory of running (which sometimes ultimately meant rolling down it) in the summer! Yes sledding at Riverfront Park was a real adventure, and usually always very cold, because our Illinois winters don't seem to be complete without a stark wind coming off the water at the river. Our other favorite place to go sledding was Dickson Mounds. I can remember many times, going up to the far top of the Dickson Mounds' property where the pavilion and playground equipment is to sled down the back side of that giant hill. You had to have a lot of snow for that sledding adventure though because the weeds were usually high and it took a lot of snow to pack them down so you wouldn't get tangled up, but boy was it fun!
Now that I am an adult, with children of my own, I think they will have very different memories of "Illinois winters". They will recall strange weather where sometimes it was warm and sometimes it was bitter cold. Tornados, snowstorms and flooding all in the same week. Springlike weather on a Monday and eleven inches of snow four days later. I'm not sure if this is a pattern, a sign of the times, global warming, or just change in general, but it definitely feels different. I guess the one thing I am certain of, is that my children will cherish their childhood memories of spring, summer, winter and fall, and that makes me happy.
As I reflect on my childhood memories of Illinois winters and compare them to my now midlife reality, I can't help but think, I enjoy the change of the seasons, in fact it is one of my favorite things about living in Illinois, I just don't enjoy them all in the same week!
See you in Historic Havana ~April
As we say goodbye to 2018 and welcome a fresh new year, I can't help but reflect on the many new people I met this year, and old friends I stayed connected with or reconnected with. It has been a year of change, new beginnings and growth for me personally and for my small hometown as well. If you haven't heard about our downtown revitalization campaign then surely you've been living under a rock for the last few years! Havana is right square in the midst of an outright reinvention. We have made an assessment, set goals, boundaries and guidelines and now we are putting those plans in motion to make our town and community more visible, and to draw in folks from around the State and from all over our great Country to pay us a visit and see what we are all about here in little old Havana. We intend to be a desirable destination for travelers from near and far.
From my view, we have much to offer. We have a beautiful riverfront, great shopping, restaurants and most of all, great people. I always hear visitors say, "the people were so nice, they act like they've always know you". It's also very true. I think when you are raised in a Midwestern town, you are just brought up making conversation and talking to everyone you see, even if you have no idea who they are! Saying hello and talking to people, whether I know them or not is probably one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy meeting new people and after that, well you aren't really strangers anymore anyway.
Many new beginnings came about for me in 2018. I began attending meetings that were geared toward making friendships and partnerships with business owners in Havana, and contributing to the change and revitalization of our community. I met people who were long time business owners in Havana, and those who are just getting fired up. I became so passionate about telling the world who we are that I built this website: Historic Havana Illinois.com. I took a ton of pictures of everything Havana and enjoyed every one of them and even participated in two art shows!
Many others were also very ambitious and achieved so much success! Many of our downtown buildings were rehabilitated and resurrected through the revitalization. The face of our downtown is beginning to change for the better. Where once there was only darkness, now lights are shining, exterior facades are beautifully painted and restored and we are beginning our art and mural installations soon! All of these changes give folks pause to say, something has changed, this is different and they are doing things here. Because we are!
Havana deserves to have a reputation as a great town to visit and spend some time recreating, shopping, eating and even staying overnight. I intend to do my part, as an individual who wants to see Havana and all of it's community members and businesses succeed, I will promote our little Midwestern gem and if all goes well, we will be noticed for our charm, history and most of all, for our people.
Looking to 2019, I must say, the times they are a changin' and that is certainly a good thing! Happy New Year and I will see you in Historic Havana! ~April