The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 4, 2013

The trolley, the park, and downtown

Joyce's Park became Eagle Point Park.  Clinton millionaires left much land to the people, in the north end and at Riverfront Park, which later became wonderful recreation legacies for our whole community.  Once, however, a typical "date" for an immigrant boy was to take his lady love on a 14-mile round-trip trolley ride -- from South 14th Street, seven miles north to the most beautiful private park in the world -- for a picnic lunch. The sandwiches and potato salad never tasted better!

The park possessed sun-dappled paths, which Indians of old once traveled, and there were plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.  Besides “the thousand step” path, one could descend hidden ravines and watch the river from a hundred cliff perspectives at various look-outs. Every game imaginable was played there … each stone wall traversed by countless fearless young daredevils.

Those were days when an "average guy” couldn’t afford a horse-and-buggy, yet he had several transportation options at his beck and call.  He could walk, or he could take the trolley.  He could go to Chicago on one of the many daily trains, easier than he could go downtown.  The times were slow, but travel was comparatively fast.

Once automobiles took to the streets, it was either going to be the horse or "the horseless carriage" by the 1930’s. The "car," as it came to be called, won hands-down!  The trolley car tracks were ripped up and the streets paved over, almost overnight.  What a loss!  That peaceful, idyllic life, punctuated by an occasional trolley bell “clang,” disappeared about 1937.  Still, many folks clung to the old ways.  Prior to the auto-age, people lived in their own little ethnic enclave with a neighborhood school, church, bank, bar, and grocery.  They seldom visited “downtown,” although it flourished by being the "only game in town" for real shopping: for suits, dresses, haberdashery, cloaks, dry goods, hosiery, and millinery.  (What are all those things?!)

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