Tuesday, July 27, 2010


"Don't ask me, I'm just a dumb reporter from Wheaton, Illinois."

When Redford/Woodward spoke that line in "All the President's Men" everyone in Wheaton was proud.

Sure it's in the heart of DuPage County, one of our state's Republican strongholds. Sure Redford/Woodward and Hoffman/Bernstein were bringing down Richard Nixon, on-screen. Maybe the crowd at the old Wheaton Theater booed from the beginning to the end of that flick, and maybe they wanted Ben Bradlee's head on a pike.

But when Redford/Woodward gave a shout out to the folks back in Wheaton, for that brief instant, they were as proud as they could be.


He just said Wheaton,Illinois.

That's us!

Little old railroad town out west. Cornfields when we moved there in '69, at least to the south. Up north was the old part of town.

Founded by Erastus Gary and the Wheaton Brothers, Jesse and Warren, in the late 1830s, Wheaton grew with the railroad. No dummies, they gave land to the railroad, gave it, so that they'd lay track through where they envisioned a town would be. In 1859 the town incorporated.

It was a dry town for much of its history. I think they issued their first liquor license while I was living there in the early 70s. Famous for having more denominations of churches per person than any other town in the Milky Way Galaxy or something. I think there were 97 different faiths with storefront operations up and running when I lived there, which was from 1969 until 1978 when I left home and started riding the rails with other Wheaton hobos, at the age of 18.

It was about 30,000 people back then, slightly more than half of what it is now. Out south in the cornfields, subdivisions sprung up, and we moved into one of them. Right down the street from Judge and Mrs. Woodward, ...Bob's parents.

That was a big deal around 1974-ish. Home town boy helps topple the President of the United States.

People from Wheaton have always been proud (more or less Bob and Billy) of their (our) more newsworthy residents.

They were always quick to remind people that Belushi (the funny one) was a Wheaton boy. There was a photograph on the wall of some friends of mine, Carl and Erik xxxxx, who lived in the Lakeside Apartments in Lisle. The first thing you saw when you walked in the front door of their place was this picture. About 4 feet wide, and about 2 feet tall. A football team. The 1967 Wheaton Central Tigers.

But Carl and Erik went to rival Glenbard West. What in the hell were they doing with a 14 year old team picture from Wheaton Central? Well, if you looked closely at the kid holding the trophy in the middle of the bottom row. you saw John Belushi. These goofy bastards had broken into Wheaton Central and stolen the thing from the trophy case. A prize among college kids in the late 70s, and by 1982....well, I hope they returned it to Judy.

Belushi went to Wheaton Central.

So did Woodward.

So did Red Grange.(My grade school football practices were across the street. Many an hour spent looking at the sign that declared Red Grange Field.)

And so did one of my great heroes, Edwin Hubble. Hubble was a star athlete back in his Wheaton Central days, and a fairly good student from what I hear.

I was delighted to learn that when the old high school had passed its shelf life, it was converted to the Edwin Hubble Middle School. Two newer high schools made restoration impractical, and so demolition was considered briefly, before the townfolk came to their senses and embraced the history in that old place.

Most of the building was left vacant, but the newer front part was used to teach grade school kids, and I'm sure they learned all about Edwin Hubble, the guy who debunked Genesis.

It's been called The Hubble Middle School since 1992.

So I looked into the paper today.


Maybe a Costco.

Maybe a subdivision with a strip mall with a nice Starbucks and a Cinnabon.

Not sure what to do with the property, but for sure they've got to do something with it, right? A subdivision sounds good, but in this tough economy, maybe let's go with a fucking Costco.

Thinking about 20 years from now, when it's all developed and people are parking their cars on the football field so they can run in to buy 24 rolls of toilet paper...you guessed it, my head exploded again.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.


Keifus said...

A strip mall is just what every formerly vibrant community needs. (I'm assuming...I guess one goes back longer for defunct railroads than for vacated industry which is the usual case around here. I obviously know nothing of Wheaton--what has kept it afloat all these years?). Tradition is nothing before the demands of sprawl, from which nothing can possibly go wrong, ever.

Schmutzie said...

Wheaton stayed afloat because of agriculture through the late 19th, and most of the 20th centuries. Lots of farms. Corn and soybeans mostly. Later, and currently, it became a town of commuters. There's Main St, and the downtown area, which is pretty much like it was in the 60s, but all the corn fields have been developed into friggin subdivisions of McMansions. Fantastic place to live, but not much to do on a Friday night.