funny how we always call them "she."
the body and soul of Eve was crafted in God's image out a
rib in Adam's side; statues, monuments, sailing ships,
locomotives, airplanes, space shuttles and yes, buildings --
those artifacts considered among the most magnificent of
mankind's handiwork -- are always referred to in the
its a holdover from a more polite and sentimental period,
when young women were always chaperoned at the first notice
of Sunday afternoon male callers and the postcards you sent
on any holiday occasion cost only a penny.
Anyway, she's gone.
Another old grey lady so much a part of Evansville's history
has succumbed to the wrecking ball; the old L & N
Station, as the trainmasters since 1902 called her, was once
a bustling place with high oak benches and purple stained
glass windows that glistened in the warm afternoon sunlight.
boy found himself amazed at the myriad of fragrances which
could be found around the building. Line the sweet
shoeshine paste in the tins at the boot black stand of white
marble and shiny brass; the pungent odor of Charles Denby
cigar smoke coming from a group of large men apparently in a
hurry, who were wearing seersucker suits and large Panama
hats; the rye bread used to make the ham and cheese
sandwiches in one of the two restaurants. And of course, the
stout, oily Diesel fumes out by the l0oading platform where
the friendly black Reed Caps in white starched shirts pulled
large red carts to and from the baggage cars queued and
waiting for departure.
Periodically, a caller on the loud speaker would sound the
All Aboard for passengers leaving in the next few minutes.
The boards posting arrival and departure times shouted out
the names of many distant cities. Biloxi, Pensacola,
Mobile, New Orleans, Montgomery, Birmingham, Nashville,
Knoxville, Memphis -- all seeming a half a world away since
a young boy only got as far as the train station two or
three times a year.
was once an old Civil War steam locomotive with passenger
consist called the General which came to town. The
boy's parents and grandparents made a big fuss about its
coming. The ride was very short but the boy felt very
lucky to get to ride behind such an historic locomotive
since spare tickets were scare. His sister wasn't even
able to accompany him on the excursion. The father
took the sister to a nearby barbecue show for some
sandwiches while the boy road the train. They said the
sandwiches were tasty, but the boy could care less. He
was reveling in having smelled the operation of a real steam
engine in transit for the very first time. "She sure
was beautiful," the father said.
time before or later (the boy does not remember) there seems
to have been a good deal of construction work going on
downtown as a part of what was called "urban renewal,"
whatever that was. Not too far away there was another
building raised where the children had first gone to see
Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians and My Fair Lady with their
mother. They remember it being called the Lowe's
Majestic Theater. Then there was a big auction at a
hotel called the Vendome when it closed. The young boy
had not been there but he remembers riding past it on the
way to another theater around the corner and down the street
from Herman's Candy Store where you could get the best hot
roast beef sandwiches in town. It was called the
was it grand. Rich in rococo and gold leaf decorations
inside, the boy often wondered why the owners wanted to turn
the lights completely out during the movies. It was so
beautiful. The parents and grandparents used to talk about
vaudeville acts appearing there, and the father once wanted
to take the children to see one of the last rare appearances
of Dixieland trumpeter Louis Armstrong. After a long talk
with the mother, they decided the tickets would be too
the father took the young boy to watch the Grand theater
being demolished. The boy remembers his father asked
one of the workmen if he could have the stage pins used on
the pin rail of the big stage behind the screen. The
father gave a few of the pins to close personal friends, one
of whom was named Shapker, a man who owned a car wash on the
East Side and was the former manager of the theater.
The note enclosed with the rope-etched stage pin spoke of
something about "building a better mousetrap." The boy
remembers the warm tears which ran down his cheeks as he
watched the building to crumble before him. "There she
goes, " the workman cried.
Recently the young boy, now a man, watched another wrecking
ball used on another old familiar building. Once
again, he cried.
David Scott Coker is an Evansville
native and a 1971 Reitz High School graduate. He had
three grandfathers who spent more than a century of their
combined working lives in dedicated service to the
Louisville & Nashville and the Illinois Central railroads.
David Coker is a free-lance writer
and community activist.