This is an article I wrote for the centennial Celebration of the town I grew up in. I had forgotten all about it until today when I was looking for something in my documents. So, I thought I would share it. Anyone who knew our family and especially my Mother might enjoy these memories and pictures from long ago.
Our Little House on the prairie
Our family moved to Justice, Illinois in 1960 into a small house on Oak Grove Avenue. The streets were gravel, later upgraded to cinders, and eventually they were coated with tar. All the kids used to love to walk on the fresh sticky tar with our flip flops and see how far we could walk before they were permanently stuck on the street. Our weekends were sometimes spent at “Playland Park” where my sister made cotton candy and snow cones for the crowds. Yearly picnics run by one of the political party’s in the village were always something to look forward to. And I remember one summer a circus came to town and set up in what is now the baseball field behind The Village Hall.
My older brother and older sister went to Argo High School the first school year after we moved to Justice. I was in the second grade at Justice School on Cork Ave, some years later that school was renamed Dosher School. A brother and sister too young to go to school were still at home with our Mother. During the school year, when I was in third grade, the big move was made to a brand new school on Archer Avenue. Brodnicki School was a big modern building, something we had never seen before. It is still there although there have been additions added to the building, making the original school look minuscule.
Behind our house was a prairie that stretched the entire length of the block. We called it “the weeds”, and the neighborhood kids could be found there often exploring and playing. (This “Prairie” is now occupied by townhouses on Cork Avenue). We had tree houses, forts, big rocks to play on, and trees to climb. There was wildlife in the prairie and we occasionally spotted frogs, snakes, bunnies, opossums, pheasants and ducks. There also was a large community of skunks that would come out at night and terrorize the neighborhood. They would get in everyone’s garbage and at least one dog would get sprayed during their nightly rampage. Once we had a family of red fox that would boldly walk down the street early in the morning with no fear.
Our little house, at one time housed five kids, two parents, a Grandmother and only one bathroom. Most of the families in the neighborhood lived the same way. Three kids in one bedroom, more in the other bedroom and sometimes a kid or two on a roll-a-way bed in the living room.
There were so many kids around that you never lacked a playmate. The families I remember from our block are, The Kolacki’s, The seven White Boys, The Schimmel girls, The Thiele Girls, The Taylor Kids and the Heltons. Further down the block were The Suddeth family and The Good Kids. We were usually riding our bikes, playing in the weeds or getting our feet wet in the tiny “creek” by the playground (which was strictly prohibited by everyone’s Mother).
I’ve been told that my Mother cried for weeks after moving to Justice. She was a city girl and accustomed to walking to the stores and church, and riding the street car that she could catch at the corner. Now, here she was in our Little House on the Prairie, she couldn’t drive and all her old friends lived too far to come visit. But, before long she had friends throughout the town. She became involved in the schools, Scouts, politics and in later years was an employee of both the school district and the village. She became a familiar face to almost everyone in town.
Years have passed and the tiny village has kept up with the times. There are now improved streets, sidewalks and city water. An educated and professional Police Department protects the villages citizens. Everyone in town can sleep soundly at night because of the fine Firefighters that respond quickly to any emergency.
The explosion of new homes, apartments, and condos is something we could have never imagined, and successful businesses have popped up throughout the village.
Although the Village has changed, and has been transformed into a thriving community, some things have not changed at all. The friendliness of the town has never diminished, everywhere you go in town you will see a familiar face. Kids have grown up, married and bought homes in town, it’s as if the familiar streets and faces beg you to stay.
To raise your children in the same place you grew up can be a wonderful and satisfying experience.
The memories I have of growing up in Justice are some of the best memories I hold dear to my heart. There is no other place I could imagine that would have been better to be a kid. Everyone watched out for everyone else, and you feared your friend’s Mom as much as you feared your own. We were never afraid in our familiar surroundings, and there was always someone nearby you could depend on.
My Mother loved the Village of Justice and was proud of every accomplishment the Village made over the years. Through her work in the schools and the Village Hall, and all of her involvement and participation in the many clubs and organizations in town made her a person well known through the town.
Happy Birthday Justice, Illinois! You have become more than anyone could have imagined!
Dedicated to the memory of my Mother: Lois C. Killham