Louis Macchietto was a lifelong resident of Marseilles who died March 3 at age 92. He had served during World War II in the U.S. Merchant Marine and then worked at Libbey-Owens-Ford for 35 years. About 10 years ago, Macchietto decided to write his reminisces about growing up in Marseilles. Copies were made available at his memorial service. Macchietto’s friend, Don Lockas, provided a copy to The Times. It is being reprinted with the permission of Macchietto’s wife, Carol.
Quiet serenity and memories of days gone by when I was very young, in my solitude, as I lay awake at night, remembering echoes of the past of a time long since gone. But still vivid in my mind is our small valley town of Marseilles in the Illinois River Valley surrounded by bluffs and hills.
The sounds come alive to me as I lay awake late at night — the steam trains passing through town, the whistle made its magical sound at night, the sound of an owl hooting its strange sound. I could visualize in my mind, could see the owl perched in the tree in our yard, or during the day hear the cries of the crows in flight, then at dawn the steamboat whistle of the riverboat on the river resounded through the valley.
These were the days of the Great Depression, when you yearned for things you could not have, but to be happy for the things around you. The hissing of a steam engine from the south side coal mine where many town folks worked. Late at night the paper mill in town, the whistle and noises could be heard from the factories at a distance.
This was my age of wonderment. But also of pride even though we had very little. To walk the streets of our town to greet our elders with respect and have a sense of caring for them. To watch the trains stop and pick up passengers and look at the passengers in the train and wonder who they are and where are they going? They were dressed and looked so fine to me I thought they must be rich.
In the summertime laying on the grass and looking at the sky, the clouds were the mountains and the river was the sea. Summertime swimming and fishing in the Illinois & Michigan Canal, weekend family swims with their inner tubes and boating. Stealing rides on the back of horse drawn wagons, the driver would pretend he didn't see us, though he knew the pleasure we as young kids got thinking he didn't know. It was a pleasure to get to ride on a horse-drawn wagon as we always had to walk. The band concert, the carnival, the ball games or donkey ball games.
The junk man was where the city hall and buildings are now. His name was Pete Tarkow. He was a Russian Jew. He would drive his buggy through town calling out, "Rags, paper, junk." He would buy, giving you a few pennies. He had heaps of junk piled up at the old location on Lincoln Street. A nice, colorful man, he would always bargain for your goods.
Skating on the canal in the wintertime, roasting potatoes in the ashes of the fires we built to keep us warm. Climbing on the bluffs and hills, playing games like knifey, run sheep run, snipe hunting, duck on the rock, kick the can and leap the frog and follow the arrow, which at times went up the cemetery walk to the cemetery at dusk. We would be scared and would turn back. Evening walks around the neighborhoods greeting the others walking or sitting on their porches greeting you.
People worked hard for very little at these times, this was their relaxation, as well as reading the paper. Then it was early to bed and another day of hard work was ahead of them tomorrow.
Remembering when the showboat, The Goldenrod, came up river and docked above the dam playing the calliope you could hear for miles playing "Here Comes the Showboat." They would have live actors performing shows on board the stage with different performances. Two days later it leaves its landing at the river and goes to other towns.
In our town were many different people from Italy, Kentucky and different ethnic groups. We all got along respecting one another.
The wish book was a mail order catalog. Whenever a purchase was made, we hounded the postal delivery man, everyday asking when our package would come, but that was forever to see if our new shoes would fit.
Remembering sitting on my dad's uncle's knee at the river watching the riverboat men tie up their barges for other boats to pick up to go to Joliet and Chicago.
This is a time etched in my mind, the memories I shall never forget. These were hard times.