Neighborhoods provide the energy, color and flavor of any big city. But that formula holds true in mid-size and small cities as well.
To really understand how a community ticks, it helps to know its history and neighborhoods.
I had plenty to learn about the neighborhoods of St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia when I first came to work and live here nearly 40 years ago.
One of the most fascinating has always been the Dean Street neighborhood in St. Charles, which for decades was the tight-knit, blue-collar section of the city rooted in Belgian tradition and dedicated to hard work at the nearby Moline Malleable factory.
Over time, it evolved into an area that was simply convenient for longtime residents, putting them within walking distance of St. Patrick's Church and school, St. Charles High School (now Thompson Middle School), and the downtown stores.
It also didn't hurt to have Snappy Snack hamburgers for only 19 cents at the corner of Main and 11th Street in the 1950s and early '60s.
I became familiar with Dean Street family names like the Bruggmans, Orlands, Mabreys, DeWittes, VanHoves, Spriets and Altepeters.
I learned about the houses that were once on the other side of the now abandoned train tracks off DeBruyne, one of them where my mother-in-law lived as a child. That area, where Moline Malleable once stood, is now a commercial sector, with an indoor soccer venue.
Because so many of these families still have individuals living in or near town, it tells you all you need to know: Living on Dean Street meant you had a deep connection to St. Charles.
Super success story: After attending a Kane County Cougars game, it's hard not to think about when former county forest preserve chief Phil Elfstrom stopped by my desk nearly 30 years ago and asked me what I thought of his idea to bring minor league baseball to the county.
His initial idea was to plant a Class A team on the county fairgrounds along Randall Road, fairly close to Main Street, in St. Charles. The fairgrounds were looking to relocate on Route 47 and, on paper, it seemed like a fairly decent idea. I told him it would be a great addition to the area.
As time went on, the current site along Kirk Road fell into the county's lap, and it would be hard to envision it anywhere else in the Tri-Cities at this point.
The stadium, the team, the marketing, the experience -- it all keeps getting better with age.
And whoever had the idea for moving traffic out of the parking lots after games is a genius. Traffic leaving the major lot and heading south on Kirk just keeps flowing because orange cones create a divided highway -- one lane for regular traffic, one lane for fans pouring out of Fifth Third Bank ballpark.
And this is no secret, of course: The fireworks show after the game is top rate. Add it all up, and it's just a great success story.
Those key conversations: Jay Payleitner of St. Charles has published another family self-help book, this one providing "10 Conversations Kids Need to Have with Their Dad."
Payleitner's books always stress consistent communication between parents and their children. It seems like it would be a simple task, but it likely ranks up there with the most difficult thing on the parenting list.
The conversations encouraged in this book include, among others, the topics of family, work, how to be creative, and how to handle competition.
Payleitner is the executive director of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative and partners with the National Center for Fathering. He and his wife, Rita, have raised five children and cared for 10 foster babies.
Video gambling, yea or nay?: Maybe the St. Charles aldermen who wouldn't even consider studying the potential positives of allowing video gambling at the St. Charles Moose Lodge figured they scored a victory for the moral high ground.
Standing up for what you believe has been at the core of our form of local government since its inception. But so has allowing all viewpoints to be aired and taking some time to consider what really is best for your community. On that last count, the council sort of sidestepped its responsibility.
I am neither a big fan nor a strong opponent of video poker games in a tavern or a lodge. I don't spend enough time near either entity to qualify as an educated voice on the topic. Basically, I enjoy playing a few games of video poker on those rare occasions I am at a casino.
Regardless, I would be willing to hear all of the pros and cons if someone voted me into a position that called for, well, thoughtful consideration.
Without hearing all of the details, I am left to wonder about this: If video gambling is so bad, why do we allow people to buy cigarettes or alcohol? Those two things don't have a great track record in terms of quality of life either.
Back to trivia: After hosting the last Trivia Night fundraiser for TriCity Family Services, our Charge of the Trivia Brigade team will go back to simply participating when the agency offers its next competition next Saturday night at the Batavia Moose Lodge.
We'll be looking forward to answering, rather than asking, the questions.
By virtue of winning the contest we hosted in February, Purple Power from Miscella Real Estate has the honors of putting together the questions for Saturday's contest, which starts at 6 p.m. with a social hour and questions begin at 7 p.m.
If you want to see how much trivia knowledge you have locked into your brain, be sure to sign up a team at (630) 232-1070.