After eight years of combined dating/living together in sin/marriage, I decided I finally felt secure enough in my relationship with Doug to introduce him to my Midwest family. So off we flew to Chicago at the crack of dawn on Tuesday! We had a layover in Vegas and were both decidedly disappointed in the plethora of normal looking people in regular clothes and real body parts. Where were all the Vegas party girls?
The first adventure of The Great Midwest Adventure was to drive two hours South of Chicago to Hoopeston, Illinois. Once we got in to the country, we literally passed one care. One. You can see it in the background here:
Corn - Becky - Soy.
We went straight to the assisted living facility where my Great Grandmother, Barbara Unger, lives. We had a delicious dinner with my maternal side of the family - my Great Grandmothers' three (out of four) children - including Sonnie (my Grandma). My mom came (which was a surprise to me). We decided to start the dinner off in a traditional Southern way, with heated discussions around SNAP (food stamps) and farmer subsidies, the George Zimmerman trial, poor people in general, being able to carry a gun in your car, etc. I'm not actually kidding. I think about 50% of the dinner was a liberal city mice "politely" arguing with conservative country mice. End result was that my aunt was sent to lunch the next day with an internet printout of the USDA funding distribution for 2014 to "prove" a point (I guess?). This same family member also argued with my mom that college kids shouldn't have to need a computer to complete assignments, and that email is unnecessary - why doesn't she call her students (from a land line, this person denounces cell phones) or send a printed letter?! So needless to say I don't think they'll be reading this blog. Sucks for them!
Doug saw fireflies for the first time ever our first night, which was pretty special. We're staying at my Great Aunt Sue's house. She lives on a farmhouse in the country on the outskirts of Hoopeston. I'll take pictures later, because this farmhouse is legit. The number of neighbors she has within one square mile? Zero. The distance from her front porch to a cornfield? About 20 feet.
Tour de Hoopeston in full effect!
Hoopeston has less than 5,000 residents. At the farming peak there were approximately 10,000 people. They used to grow a variety of vegetables and can them in the town at the canning factory. The canning factory was open 24 hours a day with three full shifts - there was ALWAYS work at the cannery - both producing the cans and canning farmed food from Hoopeston. However, once freezing vegetables became more popular, the canning factory declined tremendously. It's very small now and employees few people, comparatively. The production side only produces the tops and bottoms of cans now. Here's the canning factory (production center).
This patch of gras is where my Great-Great grandmother and grandfather lived, across the street from the factory. The house was torn town after they moved out.
Hoopeston, Illinois is where my Grandma Sonnie was born and raised. In face, this is the house she was born in:
My uncle is still a farmer. He farms land all over Hoopeston. In fact, if you look beyond the Pizza Hut and the IGA grocery store (the town has one grocery store), you can see some of the corn he farms.
Lunch consisted of fried chicken and... you'll never guess... CORN.
We actually got the fried chicken from a gas station. Allegedly it's the BEST PLACE TO GET FRIED CHICKEN according to my grandma. The gas station. (Update: it was actually pretty good. Not too greasy, crunch skin, delicious meat, etc. These gas station attendants make a damn good friend chicken!).
This was the actual freezer they used to store the corn and the watermelon.
I was pretty impressed with this freezer at the farmers market, but after looking at this picture again, man, check out the volume in my hair! Benefits of humidity: Nice, voluminous hair, which distract everyone from the sweat running down your back and face no doubt.
We straight shucked our corn ourselves too. Damn right. I mean... I guess you always do this with corn. For some reason it felt cooler because we bought it out of that old fridge in a corn farming town.
We were a little bit late to lunch because we were driving behind whatever the hell this thing was.
This is downtown Hoopeston. Main Street. It's almost two blocks long.
We visited a few shops, including my Great Aunt and Uncle's jewelry shop (Unger Jewelry).
Across the street from the movie theatre is my family's church. This is where my Grandmother was married.
This food locker is where you'd buy your animal/game/whatever, and they'd butcher and store it for you. It's closed down.
At one shop my Grandma suggested I buy one of these. I thought it was lacy underwear - she corrected me, it's a lacy TOP, that you can wear with our without a bra. We asked Doug what he thought. He turned around and pretended to ignore us.
The movie theatre closed a few years ago, which everyone agreed was a bummer. When you stood close the entire thing reeked of mold, though - and it was closed up pretty good.
Alrighty then (you have to say that at the end of your conversations in the Midwest), more tomorrow, including pics of a big ass tire fire, corn, the rules of the Hoopeston Cemetery, corn, farmhouses, corn, and Mr. Hoopes' house (for realz).
Have you ever been on a farm? Where? What did they grow? What was the town/the people like? Share in the comments section.