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Summer’s Shining Memories: Visiting Paris

July 25, 2018

 

Summer’s Shining Memories:  Visiting Paris (Illinois)

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

From my family’s hometown of Blanford, Indiana, which was directly on the Central Indiana-Illinois borderline , a car ride of about fifteen minutes took us to the Hoosier town of Clinton, located on the banks of the Wabash River.  If our car was headed west, a fifteen-minute ride took us to Paris–the county seat of Edgar County, Illinois.  Although we much more often traveled to Clinton for shopping, library, church, events, Aragon Swimming Pool, movie theatres, and high school, we went to Paris, a town serving expansive farming communities, for other reasons.

 

One reason that we limited our trips to Paris was the “antique” road to arrive there:  one side or lane of the road was made of bricks, and the other was simply a gravel lane.  During my youth of the 1950s and 1960s, the customary practice was that most drivers heading to Paris would drive on the brick side of the road–the wrong side of the road–until spotting an on-coming vehicle.  Then, the movement of the car from the brick lane to the rough gravel always seemed somewhat tricky to me.  Frankly, sitting in the back seat, I found this mode of travel sufficiently nerve-racking and sometimes even frightening.  Thus, there had to be a good reason to go to the “Paris of the Midwest.”

 

From at least 1962, we took our pet dogs to the Dart and Taylor (later Dart, Taylor, and Climer) Veterinary Clinic.  In downtown Paris, the county courthouse was in the middle of a square with shops and businesses on the outer four sides of the square.  One reason we shopped in Paris was McCoy’s Shoe Store, where through the earlier decades, my parents purchased many pairs of shoes for their two daughters.

 

With summer memories in mind, the main reason we journeyed to Paris was Twin Lakes Amusement Park, the development of which began in 1895.  Amazingly, on January 7, 1896, “Reservoir Park” opened on the east side of Illinois Route One, at the very north edge of the city.  Charles P. Hitch, the developer, operated two boats on the reservoir:  The City of Paris and The Mary Martha.  After a drought, the second lake, on the east side, was developed.  Thus, Reservoir Park became Twin Lakes (Amusement) Park, containing 163 acres of water and 40 acres of park land.

 

Watching the Fourth of July fireworks over the lake with my cousin Carole, other family members, and/or friends was a dazzling summer treat.  Of course, some people watched the display in the night sky from their boats.  Although we often went to the fireworks displays at the football stadium of Clinton High School or at the Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute (Indiana), the view of the fireworks over the lake was especially festive with reflections upon the water.

 

At Twin Lakes Park, we also enjoyed some picnics under the huge shelter and some picnics right along the lake.  At times, the swans and ducks that looked so peaceful on the lake showed another side of their personalities on shore, near our picnic tables.  After years of picnics at Twin Lakes with family, school classes, or the Royal Neighbor Juveniles–my high school friends and I went to the park for picnics and games of miniature golf.  Additionally, we rented paddleboats to venture out onto the lake.  Although the park included a beach, swimming area, arcade, and dance hall–we preferred Clinton’s Aragon Swimming Pool for our swimming.

 

In earlier years, we took younger cousins to Twin Lakes to enjoy the kiddie rides:  an impressive carousel, a train on an oval track, little cars going round and round on a circular platform, and a relatively small roller coaster.  Another ride for the more daring pre-teens and teenagers was the “High Swings,” a mechanized ride–one my sister and I never tried, but my cousin Carole did.  In the 1980s, when my nephews were quite young, we took them to the park for the rides, miniature golf, and fishing.

 

One of my clearest recollections of Twin Lakes Park was the stand where cotton candy was sold.  For a number of years, the same lady made and sold the cotton candy.  The hot, humid air of the Illinois summer and the heat from the machine that spun the cotton candy made the face of the worker rosy pink.  With her white and gray hair, white uniform, stainless steel machine, white countertop, and some pink of the stand, the image was a blend of white, pink, and gray.  Her gentle hand formed the cotton candy around a white paper cone–absolutely no plastic bag nor plastic cone was involved.  Her cotton candy was the most delicious I ever tasted.  I cannot imagine eating cotton candy from a plastic bag, as the sweet treat is sold today.  Actually, I cannot imagine eating more than one taste nowadays.  During the four-day Bastille Days Festival in my neighborhood this summer, I could periodically smell the distinctive sweet fragrance of cotton candy; and I immediately thought of the wonderful and pretty cotton candy from Twin Lakes.  The fragrance and memory were enough:  I bought no cotton candy at Milwaukee’s Bastille Days.

 

Upon leaving the park grounds, we took the winding road around the lake and looked at the lake cottages.  Then, I thought of how neat living so near the lake would be.  At that time, I never imagined that someday I would live just four blocks from the lakefront of Lake Michigan.

 

If we saved enough room for ice cream, we always stopped at the Dairy Queen [trademark], located just a short drive south on the street (Route One) from the park.

 

A-a-a-ah, those were happy summer days.

 

At one point in the 1980s, the merry-go-round was dismantled; and the carousel horses were sold to a park in a southern state.  Fortunately, some of the carousel horses were sold or auctioned individually; and the Edgar County Historical Society acquired the carousel horse named “Chief.”  My dad and I really did want one of those antique carousel horses.  I could just imagine one of the finely sculptured horses on the west end of our large front porch of our Blanford home.  Nevertheless, all I have of these merry-go-round memories is a carousel music box.

 

A few years ago, when my sister, my Leader Dog Zoe, and I traveled through Illinois and Indiana, we went to Paris to place flowers on the graves of my two pet dogs Chico (a buff-colored Cocker Spaniel) and Chelsea (a white with cinnamon-colored spots Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), as well as for Keller, my first Leader Dog (Golden Retriever) at the pet cemetery of the veterinary clinic.  After that tearful stop, we proceeded to the other side of Paris and drove slowly through Twin Lakes Park to see how much the area had changed.  Currently, Twin Lakes is being rejuvenated with an all-abilities playground and Tiger Falls Splash Park.  Of course, in my summer memories, Twin Lakes appears exactly the same and smells the same as the park did so long ago.

 

Some people dream of going to the “real” Paris in France or to other European countries, but I hope to someday return to this Paris of the Midwest and my Indiana.

 

POST-SCRIPT/TRIVIA:  The following states have a city, town, or unincorporated community named Paris:  Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio (two), Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin (two).

 

Enjoy your summer memories and summer 2018!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

July 25, 2018, Wednesday

 

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8 Comments
  1. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–Always enjoy reading your childhood memoirs. And it is so nice that you did the research about all the Paris towns/cities in the US. On one of our trips south, we made a special effort to visit Paris, TN as it is mentioned in a song we have done–never realized there were so many in so many different states, including the two in WI.–Sue

    • Hi, Sue–Thanks for your comment and for the note about Paris, Tennessee.  Someone else sent me a comment via e-mail and reported that he frequently has driven through Paris, Missouri.

      Enjoy the nice weather as we await some rain for our gardens!

      Take care–Alice and Willow

  2. Dear Alice,
    This wonderful piece brings back such warm memories of past summers visiting Twin Lakes Park. I enjoyed learning about the history of the park, and I certainly remember the little train ride, the beautiful carousel, and the delicious cotton candy! We spent many hot summer afternoons and evenings cooling off by that peaceful lake. Not only did you and I enjoy Twin Lakes as kids, but we were able to enjoy the park with my two boys when they were young. One of my fondest memories is of our Dad with his two precious grandsons fishing along the lake shore. What excitement when those two little guys caught a fish! Dad could not have been happier or prouder to share that experience with the boys, and I treasure that heartwarming picture in my mind. Thank you for transporting me all the way to Paris and to Twin Lakes on this hot July day in Colorado as I await the arrival from Michigan of two of my grandchildren. How fun it would be for us to take them to Twin Lakes someday!
    Love to you and Willow,
    Mary

    • Mary–Thanks for adding your piece to this post.  I intended to add to my post, but forgot to insert that the park also had regular swings and infant swings, as well as a big slide.  The grounds of Twin Lakes Park always seemed very clean and welcoming.

      Enjoy all of your company!  Alice and Willow

  3. Carole permalink

    Thanks for the wonderful memories, Alice, as we share most all of them! We definitely had a lot of fun together at the park, plus Paris was also a very special place for me because my Aunt Tam and Uncle John lived there. I also enjoyed the refreshing lemon custard stand as we drove out of town.

    • Hello, Carole–Thanks for adding a couple of your Paris memories.  As I was writing the piece, I did think about your Aunt Tam’s dress shop, Binole’s, on the north side of the square, near the northwest corner.  Although you took tap and ballet lessons in Paris for many years, we took ballroom dancing lessons at the dance studio in Paris during the winter of our seventh-grade year (I think, seventh grade).

          During the 1980s, we enjoyed a variety of ice cream flavors in big, homemade waffle cones at Bev’s Ice Cream Shop.

      Enjoy the weekend!

      Alice and Willow

  4. Katherine Binole permalink

    Alice, I loved the detailed description and memories of trips to Paris, the terrible road and Twin Lakes.i remember going to Twin Lakes for picnics with all of you. Bill and I went often when dating. We loved the paddle boats. After marriage, we took Bill and Lisa there. We enjoyed visiting Bill’s Aunt Fran and Uncle Johnny. It was always a fun time. I, especially, loved Fran’s dress shop. I bought several beautiful dresses there and then went to McCoy’s for shoes (which always fit perfectly) and matching purse to complete my outfits.

    As always, Alice, you jog my memory to remember things I have forgotten. Love, Aunt Kathy

    • Hello!  Aunt Kathy–What a nice surprise to find a comment from my aunt–the world traveler–on this post about Paris!  I do appreciate your adding your memories to my recollections.  I still have and use a wooden yardstick that was an advertisement for Binole’s Dress Shop.  What an unusual, but useful memory piece!

      With our many thanks and best wishes, Alice and Willow

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