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‘On the road again’ – rediscovering downtown St. Charles, local culture

D-Day, if you mean departure from rehab, came early this week on Monday. As my pal, Willie Nelson, sings, “good to be on the road,” again!

 I’m thinking that as a final gesture of appreciation, we will contact the good youth at our church (Baker United Methodist) to put a yard full of their special occasion flamingoes to offer final thanks for the “just ducky” days at Pine View.

 Going back to the west side, down and up Main Street, the town of St. Charles seemed a bit more ghostly,  but for the most part the same. 

I couldn’t help wondering about the nighttime demons that have tarnished the sense of pride on the fox? What’s all this about some over-loaded patrons behaving badly in and outside of the bars?

My mind switched to the “good old days” mode when the trees were made for shade and not relief from urges and the sidewalks were only laced with abandoned hopscotch chalk.

 A downtown tavern, The Oasis, was the official family business from the day after the repeal of Prohibition to the early 21st Century. So, yes, I do have some perspective on this aspect of our local culture.

 Steve and Selma shared their trade with at least a dozen other license-holders. Customers tended to distribute themselves by ethnicity. Lithuanian-heritage owners included Romans, Norkaitis, Rimcus and Young.

 A definite practice was to know that the owner was on the premises – offering some quality assurance and on guard against some misbehavior or chronic police issues that would lead to loss of the license and shop insurance.

 Steve and Selma (who armed herself with an iron will and a cast iron frying pan insisted on good behavior – which was rewarded with an entry into the inner circle of regulars. The back-up enforcer was a steely German shepherd, two successive vigilantes, both named  improbably, FuFu.

 FuFu was general a friendly, pet-me kind of dog. The stir of a fight about to happen or a loud mouth were his cues to begin his first stage of action: bare teeth and get-your-act-together growl. He rarely advanced; his reputation was sufficient.

 Clearly the bar was never as crowded as our nighttime drawing card saloons have been. That meant, as at “Cheers,” everybody knew your name. Mostly nicknames tagged from a last name, such as “Brownie” or “Chappie” or a characteristic, such as “Noisy” or a term of particular association, such as the Lithuanian word for onion. (Chibulis?) 

 Probably the late night crowds are too numerous for familiar names, but if a sufficient number of staff recognizes the who’s who among troublemakers rather than simply seeing everyone as a cash-paying customer that  might actually have an impact.

 Final recall is that those who forgot their manners or their toilet training were scorned as being especially stupid and socially undesirable. Thinking perhaps we need a giant potty chair downtown where names and pictures of the wet ones could be on display. “Drip of the Week?” Not on display at the Municipal Building, as I once thought. There are many signs of good citizenship and community pride there. Any suggestions?

 Finally, to emphasize the good citizens – school is out! Granddaughter Mazy says to thank all at Richmond School for a great year and sends wishes for a great summer.

  • Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at

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