Oregon is overrated!

I was very excited to see Oregon lose to Utah this past Saturday. It really made my day, after seeing Tennessee, lose to Florida, and Texas Tech, lose to Texas Christian University. Oregon is so overrated, and a let down to their football fans.  

Small town guy, with big dreams

In Lawrence Collerds ‘City Of Big Shoulders’, Lawrence writes about what it is like living in the inner city neighborhoods of Chicago, and how it shaped him into who he is today. My experiences, and things that I encountered while growing up in the city of Danville has shaped me in a different type of way.

A small town in Illinois, that is 17.89 sq miles, with a population of 33,000, and decreasing every year. Danville, is the town where I grew up in, and also the only place that I call home, before joining the United States Marine Corps, and moving away at the age of 21. Danville is located 120 miles south of Chicago, and 90 miles west of Indianapolis, Indiana. Nicknamed “Little Chicago“, not sure why, and who gave it that nickname, but it is far from the caliber of a Chicago, as far as things to do.

Comparing Danville to Chicago, is like comparing Osco-Jewel to Family Dollar. Chicago is a big city, with many landmarks, history, and sporting events. Many people fly to Chicago to experience these things, such as the Navy Pier, Sears (Willis) Tower, Millennium Park, John Hancock Center, but people drive through Danville to get to where they need to go. To know about Danville you would have to live there, or have grown up there. Chicago, also has the Oriental Theatre, which was built in 1926, formerly known as the Iroquois Theatre. In Danville we have the Fischer Theater, which was built in 1884. Other than that, just historical buildings in Danville, such as Engine House No. 2, which was the first all African American fire station, active from 1898 to 1963. Danville, is also the home of a hot-air balloon festival called the ‘Balloon Classic’

While growing up in Danville, we played little league football, little league baseball, went to the mall, went roller skating at Illini Skate land, played in a basketball tournament called the ‘Dustbowl‘, and watched the Labor Day Parade, which was a huge parade downtown, that brought everyone out. As a kid, those were the things that I, and everyone else looked forward to every year. All are still popular things to this day.

Little league football, has always been very big in the town that I grew up in, and a lot more bigger to this day. It has always been one of the more popular things to keep children active. These years the coaches are the generation that I grew up with, and my cousin being one of the main coaches. Little league football teams now travel to places more further out to play football games. This year, a few of the teams are preparing for a tournament in San Antonio Texas. It makes me smile to see so many positive things, still going on in my hometown.

Catching a ride or the bus, out to the mall meant going to our favorite stores like: KB Toy Store, Gliks, Sears, Foot Action, Footlocker, or watching a movie at our cinema. I can never forget about going to ‘KB Toys’ store, and looking at things that we wished to have for Christmas, or going to Foot Action, and Footlocker, looking to look at shoes. Gliks, was a store that sold many fashions of clothes. I loved walking around Gliks, just to look at the different styles of clothing. Brands such as North Face, Quicksilver, and Billabong, are a few. There was a restaurant that opened up called ‘Garfield’s’, and as the years went by, stores shut down, and new ones opened up. A lot of them were stores that I went to, while growing up. To this day, the food court at the Village Mall, has shut down, and there is a Buffalo Wild Wings, that sits right next door, and a ‘Hibbett Sports’ store, that I’m mesmerized by, every time I visit home.

The weekend hit, and we were all quick to catch a ride to Illini Skateland. Some of my favorite times at Illini Skateland were picking what skates to wear, playing arcade games, playing limbo, the race around the circle, and watching the Super bowl. Picking skates was always fun, because there were two different types: the brown skates, and the black skates. The brown skates were the slower, and cheaply made skates, and came with general admission. The black skates were the faster skates, that one had to pay extra for. I remember playing video games, like it was yesterday at Illini Skateland. Arcade games such as: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter 2, Pac Man, NBA Jam, and Roller ball, which is similar to bowling, but with a tiny ball. Getting a high score in Roller ball, you get tickets, and with those tickets you can turn them in and get prizes or food. Limbo, and the race around the circle put us all in the spotlight, and against one another. Limbo, is always fun, but much more fun with skates on.

The race around the circle was a chance for the speedy skaters, to race against one another, and hopefully you did not have those brown skates on, while trying to race or you would get left in the dust. Another good memory, that I can not forget is watching the Super bowl at Illini Skate land. Arriving at Illini Skateland on Super bowl Sunday, you pick your team. Once your team scored at point, you got a free soft drink. It was always good times, and got us out of the house as children.

The Dustbowl Basketball Tournament has been around for forty-three years, and brings high caliber competition to Danville. The Dustbowl is sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and draws Division I college players, as well as former and current professional players. The Dustbowl is held every year at our David S. Palmer Civic Center, which holds sporting events, our graduation, and is turned into a ice skating rink, during the winter months. In my younger childhood years, I remember going to the hockey events at the David S. Palmer Civic Center, and being more interested in the brawling matches more than the actual game. I always got a kick out of the fans bashing the referee also. Those were the good old times, that I can not forget.

Labor Day is here, and everyone in our small town is out on Vermilion Street to watch our town businesses, local schools, the fire department, Veterans Of Foreign Wars, and many other figures, march down Vermilion Street. My younger childhood years, I loved getting candy at the parade, but playing sports, we got a chance to be part of the actual parade. The attention was great, and made us feel like we were part of something.

Danville is also the home town of a few celebrities such as: Keon Clark, Luther Reigns, Jerry and Dick Van Dyke, and Gene Hackman. In my high school years, I worked at a pizza place named ’Jockos Pizza Inn’, and every now and then, I would see the power forward ‘Keon Clark’ from the Denver Nuggets, at the register, waiting to pick his food up. In my junior high school years, I lived right down the street from the house that ‘Gene Hackman’ was raised in. A classy looking green house, that burned down years ago. Gene Hackman, starred in movies such as: Superman, Mississippi Burning, Get Shorty, Birdcage, and Enemy Of The State. Back in 2004, Gene Hackman, returned to Danville, to sign autographs at the Danville Public Library.

It wasn’t until my graduation from Danville High School, when I realized that I did not want to stay in my hometown forever. The speech at my graduation made me think, and it hit home, after the graduation. I realized that I wanted more, and to see the world. I started to notice that many African American males, were not doing much with their lives in my hometown. Many worked at fast food restaurants, sold drugs, and ended up in and out of jail. It was a life that I did not want to live, and it sparked motivation for me to either go to college, or join the military to get out.

I have been working since going to middle school, and my very first job held was at Steak ’N’ Shake. During high school, and to the time of graduation, I worked at Jockos Pizza Inn, and certainly did not want to work there forever. My senior year my sister had a interest in joining the United States Marine Corps, along with a few of my friends from high school. They drug me out to a few of the ‘Poolee Functions’ held by the Marines. A ‘Poolee Function’ is a big workout session, that prepares future recruits for Marine Corps boot camp. A ‘Poolee’ is what you are called, once you sign the contract, and enlist into the United States Marine Corps. From the time that you enlist to the time that you ship to boot camp, you are called a ‘Poolee‘. Once you arrive at recruit training, you are called a recruit. At the ‘Poolee Functions, we do what we call a IST ‘Initial Strength Test‘. It is done every month prior to a ‘Poolee’ joining. The workouts for the ‘Initial Strength Test’ were: sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 1.50 mile run. After that we did something fun like playing football, baseball, or swimming. The functions brought a lot of camaraderie, and gave us a chance to meet other young adults, from different areas embarking on the same journey of joining the Marine Corps. The recruiters also held workout sessions at the recruiting station, which closed down as of this year. I can never forget freezing my butt off, while running around the neighborhood near the recruiting station, and not knowing what to expect at the workouts always gave me the jitters.

A year went on, and my friends kept dragging me out to the workouts. My fitness level was a lot better than the current Poolees. They signed their contract, and was well on their way to Marine Corps boot camp, and I was just a guest. That opened the recruiters eyes, and they kept in contact with me. My recruiters name was Staff Sergeant Jones, now Master Sergeant Jones (Retired). I remember getting calls from the recruiters on a monthly basis, but still had a interest in going to college, but just did not have the money for it.

I worked, and worked, but living with a single mother was just too much. My dreams of going to college were fading away due to helping my mother out on a regular basis with bills. Many depressing moments, and there were times that I felt that I was headed down the road that many other African American males, were at in my hometown. It wasn’t until mid 2001, when Staff Sergeant Jones, called me up and asked me if I was interested in taking the enlistment process to another step. I was very excited to take it to the next step, and September was the month that I shipped to Marine Corps boot camp. Joining the military meant seeing the world, and also the possibility of getting deployed, but at the time I really did not care about getting deployed. I heard many horror stories from my uncles, and co-workers, but the only thing on my mind was getting out of my hometown. I felt that I made it, and there was not going to be anything that stops me. September 23, came around and I shipped to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, in San Diego, California, with the memory Danville, pushing me during times that I wanted to give up.

Thess 3:16

I pray that the Lord, who gives peace, will always bless you with peace. May the Lord be with all of you too. -Thess 3:16

Too much fun and not enough running!