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Villa Grove, Illinois

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A while back I took some pictures in Villa Grove using a Holga lens for a digital Canon camera.  I misplaced them on my computer and only just came across them today while I was looking for something else.  Still this post is more about Villa Grove than about a lens.  The image of above is of the old water tower in Villa Grove. To me at least if there is any icon for Villa Grove it is that water tower.  The brick building in front was a library and then was the police station.  Currently I believe it is slated to be torn down.

Villa Grove is a town of 2500 around 20 miles south of Champaign-Urbana IL. Villa Grove came to be the town it is today just after the start of the 20th century when the C&EI railroad decided to build shops there.  The downtown and most of the older housing in Villa Grove came to be as a result of the C&EI shops.  The shops closed down sometime in the 1950’s when the C&EI switched to Diesel power.

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Villa Grove continued to have a healthy downtown up until the 1970’s.  The building here was once  a bank.  I think it is vacant now.  On this corner the City of Villa Grove once placed a Christmas tree in the middle of the street.  When I was a kid it seemed like it was a tradition that someone would get drunk and drive their car into the tree.  Once the Christmas tree crasher was said to have been one of the teachers at the local high school.  Nobody seems to have taken this very seriously at the time.

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The sign is off the Gem Theater, however it was open until recently and there is a possibility that it may open again. I can remember times in the 1960’s when people lined up around the block waiting to see a movie here.

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This was Roy French’s barber shop when I was a kid.  I probably got my first haircut here.  I remember there was a box of toys and comic books for kids.

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A typical residential street in Villa Grove.  Most of the houses in Villa Grove are ordinary in size.  There isn’t a section of the town where there are larger houses that the better off people lived in.  Just looking at the houses Villa Grove appears to have always been fairly solidly middle or working class.

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  1. January 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I grew up in Villa Grove and moved from there in 1070. I actually found your blog by searching for pictures of the old highschool. I believe it sat on the corner of the only intersection that had a 4 way stop in the whole town. I distinctly remember when they put the stoplight in. It was the only stoplight I can remember in the whole town.

    That building you are referring to is the old First State Bank of Villa Grove. The Gem theater was also my favorite Saturday distraction. If you give me time, I will tell you the names of the couple that owned it back then. It escapes me now.

    If you have older photos and need help with identifying them, I would be glad to help.

    Oh and by the way….the water tower was the origin of the “Six O’clock Whistle. It was a siren that went off every evening at 6 PM. As a kid, I used it to tell me when I needed to head home when I was out playing….usually at the park down on Sycamore.

    • January 22, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      The couple who owned the Gem in the 60′s and 70′s was the Ramages. I was friends with their son Tim and got the chance to see inside most of the building. It was a fairly fascinating place.

  2. January 22, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Ah that’s right. His name was George if I remember correctly, and a body builder as well. He always spoke softly because no one wanted him to get upset with them.

    • January 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      He was a pretty strong guy and had a bit of a temper. We used to go to the Index and buy candy to take to the movie because it was cheaper. We had to make sure he didn’t see us.

  3. January 26, 2013 at 4:54 am

    It seems like you truly understand very much about this specific subject and this shows by means of this specific posting,
    termed “Villa Grove, Illinois pesoto74”.
    Thanks ,Susannah

  4. Mark Ramage
    August 5, 2013 at 10:55 am

    These are some entertaining posts! Thanks for posting!> Mark Ramage

    • November 5, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      Thanks Mark. Are you Tim’s younger brother?

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