nlenstr2 is Noah Lenstra: I am a PhD student at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science interested in how we people understand, and make sense of, the past, especially nearby pasts like family history and local history. Big ideas like "memory," "archives," "public history," "historical consciousness," "presence of the past," "intimate histories," "heritage," and "folklore" orient my work. I am looking forward to exploring how C-U Wiki will enable us to stay better connected to the past of Champaign-Urbana, ensuring that everyone's stories and memories have places in our community's collective memory. With this technology we are literally building the future of the past.
So if your stories are not in C-U Wiki please take a moment to add them. If you have questions about how to get started feel free to email me.
Here are some snippets from my own history in Champaign-Urbana:
- I grew up in Galena, Illinois, and have difficulty remembering the first time I came to Champaign-Urbana. It was probably when my brother came to study at the University in, if memory serves, 1998. It may have been earlier - I remember coming to C-U for events related to concert/jazz band and theater. I have fond memories of exploring the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and exploring Green Street before its most recent face-lift. I also came to C-U a few times to attend Rogert Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival. Whenever our family came to town we would also try to stay at the most inexpensive lodging available, which usually ended up being the Motel 6 on Cunningham near I-74.
- A few years later I came to Champaign-Urbana to study as an undergraduate at the University. I first lived for a year on Clark Street near what is now the new Boneyard Creek Second St Basin Park (I'm not sure if they have come up with a catchier title for this) - in any case at the time it was an empty lot. I was only paying $225/month for rent for a bedroom in a shared apartment. I then moved to Harvest House in West Urbana, which is part of the Community of Urbana Cooperative Housing. It is in a neighborhood that is mostly long-term residents, which I much preferred to the sometimes chaos of Campus Town. I've lived in Urbana ever since!
- I met my future wife at Harvest House - we moved into an apartment at Krannert View Apartments in Urbana after a year at Harvest House. During our time at Krannert View the property must have changed owners at least 4 or 5 times. At some points we were hardly sure where to send the rent or where to direct complaints. It is for situations like these that we are blessed to have the Champaign-Urbana Tenant Union which is a great resource mostly created for University students, but which has a lot of great information publicly accessible for anyone in the community. I think the City of Urbana gives them some money to extend services beyond campus. Esther Pratt, who directs the Tenant Union, is a great local resource.
- I love riding my bike around town - you'll probably see my around town, especially on University between Goodwin and Wright. Coming from one of a handful parts of Illinois that have really big hills, I find it nice to live in the flat-lands of East Central Illinois, where it is always a good day for a bike-ride, 365 days a year. No need for a car down here, what with the great public transportation of CUMTD, the wonderful biking terrain, and Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus, and Burlington Trailways for destinations further afield. I've even flown out of Willard Airport a few times.
- But there is one story I have to share where a car would have been handy. One particularly warm Friday in which my classes ended at noon I decided to bike to Robert Allerton Park in Monticello, about a 30-mile or so bike ride away. The bike ride there was great! Warm sun and blue skies all the way. However, around 5 p.m. the weather turned nasty quick. Rain and wind so harsh I could barely move forward on my bike. Plus the temperature dropped from 70 to 40 within the space of what seemed like 15 minutes. I, meanwhile, was on the backroads between Monticello and Urbana with no cell phone. It was at this moment that I counted on the good-will of East Central Illinois hospitality. I stopped at the first house I saw -- the women said she couldn't drive me back to Champaign, but did give me some sweat-pants and sweat-shirt to warm me up (I probably gave her quite a start - I remember my teeth were chattering so much I could barely speak at first). Further down the road a farmer gave me some food, loaded my bike in his pick-up, and drove me back home. I remember he told me to go to his Church sometime on Windsor just west of town, and to try to stick to the bike-paths on Windsor in the future, at least until June.
- One's perspective on C-U depends on where you come from. Of course, for those who grow up here it may be all they know, home. For the many of us who come to C-U from elsewhere we all bring all kinds of perspectives. I remember once a teacher at Parkland Community College told me that her students from the little towns in East Central Illinois see Champaign-Urbana as the "big city," with the "North End" (the historical African-American neighborhood in C-U) perceived as the "inner city." This woman, who is from the south-side of Chicago, thought this belief to be the silliest thing she had heard. But the truth is how we see a place depends on all the other places we have seen. For some, C-U is the big city, for others the backwaters, for others a global campus, for others simply home. Everyone's perspective brings something new to our collective understanding of what it means to live in Champaign-Urbana. Hopefully with C-U Wiki everyone's take on C-U, in all its granularity, will be valued. We all have something new to learn about our community.
Our community may not be perfect, and we certainly have our divisions, but I think people here (as in pretty much all places) are fundamentally good. And everyone has something to say. I certainly have a lot more stories I could share ...
Everyone's stories of life in Champaign-Urbana are welcome in C-U Wiki. Take the time to share yours!