What is it about old houses that cause memories to come flooding in? As I drove down West Columbia Street after dark recently, the historic old home at 806 - known by my generation as “the Karsch House” - had a light in every window shining. It was beautiful, and looked so triumphant in its restored glory. A few things have been changed, but, following several years of neglect, it is once again the original, classic beauty it once was. Kudos to the new owners who have put so much love, effort and time into the home’s restoration.

It was so sad to see several of the proud and magnificent old dowager homes fall into such disrepair. The street that had once made a striking welcome statement to our town, was beginning to look shabby and embarrassed. Several of them are now showing the benefits of owners who give them a lot of TLC to bring them back to their former state of being the grand old dames they were intended to be.

Like many others who have lived here since they were youngsters, I still recall these old homes by the names of their earlier owners as I drive down the street. I do the same thing on West Liberty Street, where I grew up.

Starting at the corner of Potosi and Liberty and going west, I’ll recite my litany of the now phantom owners: Aunt Dorah (no relation) lived on the first house on the left or south side, followed by one I don’t recall, then the Roberts, Howells, Greens, the Hunts and then Short Street. In the next block were the Haynes, the Stevens, an open lot and then "the alley" - as we called it. Further down lived the other Haynes family and the Taplings, then came the Pogues and their neighborhood store.

On the right hand or north side from Potosi the houses were: the Stams (which we kids swore was haunted), a field, my parents house, another field, the Wills, the LePere home (my second home where Auntie and my cousin Gloria Doss lived), Kincaids, the Taylors, an older couple (I can’t remember the names), a field, the Gierses, a field, the Rickus and another little house. Below that were a couple of houses and the Harrington Farm.

Amazing how clearly I can still see those houses - many of them now gone - and the families who lived there. Especially when where I now live I know only those neighbors who lived right next door and the two who live directly across the street.

The big difference is that I have changed along with the times. People no longer sit on their front porches in the evening to visit and youngsters no longer run freely from house to house and yard to yard with the entire neighborhood as their playground. Now kids of all ages are mostly regimented: school, organized sports and activities, or absorbed in their texting and smart phones. Our yards remain untrammeled by impromptu visits from children playing games of tag, hide-and-seek or a pick-up ball game.

While I, like most other adults, now spend my time indoors with TV, my computer, working on projects, or on the back patio. We only leave our cocoons to work, attend church and meetings, for social functions with friends and organized events. Porches are much smaller only affording access to the front doors, while the once standard rockers and swings found on every porch are found there now only for decoration.

Instead of being greeted by "Welcome" mats at front doors, you more often find yourself being scrutinized by hidden cameras.

So, well done and thank you to those energetic people who are now buying the older homes and renovating them to still remind us of “the way things used to be” in a more gentle and innocent time.

Life’s a ball!....The masks came out again after Halloween to be donned by those who attended the elegant Masquerade Ball Fundraiser this past Saturday night - held to benefit the local L.I.F.E. Center. These masks, as well as those who wore them, were far from those of Batman, witches, ghosts and Spiderman. These masks, as well as the attire, were very dressy and ornate. The lively evening was held at Alexander Hall at The Factory with Mallory Hagan, Miss America from 2013 at the special guest. She was escorted by Farmington’s own Mark Toti, who once again came out from behind his KREI microphone to serve as emcee. The evening included dinner, an over-the-top auction and drawings for big prizes. All in all, it was an evening that any Fairy Godmother would have been proud of. And the really good part was that when the masks came off, the evening had raised a really large amount of money to support the many works of L.I.F.E Center that help local disabled and senior residents to live independent lives.

Back home for a brief visit….Ronnie Merseal, his daughter Cheryl Shoen and her son Jake, who is a senior in high school, flew in from Phoenix, Arizona. They picked up Ron’s mother, Ruth (Mrs. Pete) Merseal from Festus where she now lives, then came to Farmington to visit friends and family. Ron and Cheryl are both graduates of Farmington High and were amazed at how much the hometown had changed since their last visit. This writer was on their list of visits and they filled me in on the fact that Farmington has “vacation apartments” available and they had rented two units for their two-day stay. The vacation units are at #4 Harrison Street, which I’ve passed many times since its renovation, completely unaware of its new function. Just proves you don’t always know exactly what you’re seeing, even when you’re looking right at it!

River Cruising…A few weeks ago, a large group of members from the Methodist Church boarded the old paddle-boat Peoria Queen for lunch and a three-hour cruise on the Mississippi River. We boarded at the Grafton Pier for our senior’s On the Go excursion that had been arranged by Ida Taylor. Unfortunately, the organizer had no crystal ball to consult when the date of the trip was reserved, and it turned out to be one of our area’s unseasonably cool, windy, and cloudy days, which made it uninviting for doing much viewing from the upper deck. Still many of the guests did bundle up, following a very tasty buffet lunch (an outstanding beef brisket was served), and headed for the outdoors. Our captain was an experienced and professional navigator and avoided all of the more shallow channels, sandbars and tugs so the trip was made without incident! We were amazed to see others out on the river in small boats fishing or just cruising around. Not surprising, there were no water skiers. While we enjoyed the experience, we also learned that cruising on the river is probably better in the good old summer time.

Congratulations and high fives to our Farmington High School students who were inducted into the National Honor Society last Sunday evening. That honor does not come easily, as it requires a great deal of commitment and earnest effort to achieve the grade point average needed to be included.

The same goes for the ever active and growing members of the high school Key Club. The club is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, but the members run the program themselves - including recruiting members, electing officers and selecting projects. They are an outstanding group of achievers, who contribute time, energy, and a lot of effort into working to help with community and other charitable projects. Hats off to all of these students…they let me know the future is definitely going to be in good hands.

Coming Up:

Saturday, Nov. 18…Help the Hungry Bake Sale will again be held at St. Joe Gym that morning with doors opening at 9 a.m. All Farmington churches are involved in providing homemade items and staffing booths at the annual affair. Besides the variety of homemade baked goods, chili and other items are available to eat on site or for carry out. A large auction which features the much enjoyed biding on cakes made by “The Cooking Clergy Contest” is also part of the event. It’s a great time to get delicious cakes, pies, rolls, cookies and other treats for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season. All proceeds go to the St. Vincent de Paul and Ministerial Alliance food pantries.

MUM’s Café is a free meal provided every Thursday evening beginning at 5 p.m. at Memorial United Methodist Church on Karsch Boulevard. The meal is open to the public and everyone is welcomed.

Ring the Bell for the local United Way….It’s time to sign up to spend an hour of so ringing the bell at one of several locations around the area for the United Way of St. Francois County. This year the funds raised will help support the work of 30 agencies and organization that provide assistance for seniors, disabled, low-income, children, homeless, and many other worthy causes. All funds stay in the county. To sign up call 760-8929.

Enjoy the much cooler weather, and Mother Nature has finally decided to add some color to our fall scenery, so a drive through the countryside is now in order.

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