News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

February 22, 2011

MS. TAKES: As far as a city goes, Terre Haute is all right

TERRE HAUTE — I would never have made it to adulthood as a city girl. Terre Haute is, by far, the largest city I’ve ever lived in, and it took some adjustment.

By the time I was born — in Ottawa, Illinois — Ottawa had already been on a slide for some time. In an ill-advised decision at the time Illinois was admitted to statehood, the residents were given a choice, the site of a U.S. District Court or a land-grant university. It may have looked good at the time, but over the long haul it would have been more forward-looking to have opted for higher education.

But if Ottawa was small with small prospects for growth, Stockton, Illinois, was even smaller. We eventually returned to Ottawa until an opportunity for Dad opened in Yorkville which boasted a population of 1,000 folks IF you counted both sides of the Fox River. Technically, the north side of the river was Bristol.

What a great place to grow up. We occasionally went to Chicago, usually to go shopping or to look through the Field Museum or the Planetarium. Once we went to the Aquarium, but I was less than transported by tanks full of fish. If Dad ever went back, it was without me.

We did go to the Chicago World Fair. I have only two memories of that event, cowering on the floor of the “Sky Ride” and sitting through the seemingly interminable formalities of a Japanese tea ceremony. The traffic, the confusion and the tall buildings in Chicago made me long for the wide open spaces and farm land surrounding Yorkville.

The move to Sycamore, a town of some 9,000 souls, was a bit traumatic if only because I had to leave my friends in Yorkville and make new friends. Sycamore was within a few miles of DeKalb where there was a teachers’ college and I could commute to earn a degree.

Later there was East Prairie, Missouri, and Sikeston, ditto. East Prairie was too small (after Yorkville? Get serious!) and Sikeston, too far south — especially in the heat of summer. So, it was back to Illinois, to Geneva and St. Charles. Then, finally, the move to Terre Haute.

I like it here. It’s big enough, but not too far from open country. It has the advantage of a couple of small but impressive museums, galleries, a Community Theatre, a symphony and a lot of very nice people.

Mom always said, “Liz won’t be happy unless she is close enough to a farm to step in a cow pie.” She was right.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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