I’m Not Ashamed of Cahokia

Within seconds of it being on the news, word spread fast that a guy who grew up at the same time and same place that I did just got busted for operating a meth lab in a Cahokia house. Comments about it were of course all over Facebook, but the one that stood out to me was something like “I wish I could forget where I came from.”

And it made me sad.

Because Cahokia then, when I grew up, was not a place I would ever want to forget. Sure, it’s not the same as it used to be, but to me, there couldn’t have been a better place to grow up.St. Monica

Today when I pull up in front of the house on St. Monica where I lived for the first ten years, at first glance, I want to cry. It’s been abandoned for a while, but I can’t look past the memories I made there.  See that big tree? My brother climbed it every day. We had a tire swing that went so high, we could touch the branches. We had tomato stands in the front yard, and when awesome neighbors would stop to give us money, we’d grin from ear to ear. In that subdivision, we played hide and seek with kids for hours, going in and out of our neighbors’ yards until my dad whistled for us to come home — or ’til the streetlights came on. We walked to the convenience store – Kemper’s – with a quarter to buy a bag full of penny candy. Those are things I don’t want to forget.

tomato

When we moved across the highway to Old Cahokia, I was a little older. My best friend lived right behind me, and together we rode our bikes all over the neighborhood. We roller skated forever while carrying our boom box. We trick-or-treated until our pillow cases were full and went door-to-door selling fundraisers, sometimes even without our parents. People who didn’t grow up in Cahokia can’t imagine a place where it was ever safe enough to do that – but we remember.

Plum house

I drive through town and see my old softball fields consumed by weeds, but the friendships made on those fields have stayed strong enough and lasted long enough to get me past the sadness of the fields being gone. I choose to be thankful for those lifelong friends, and to remember the cheers, the silliness, the pouring water over each other’s heads at home plate. The memories.

ball

How many towns where people grew up had a movie theater, a youth center with karate classes, a public pool, a roller rink, an ice rink, and carnivals in the grocery store parking lot? We didn’t have to go far for entertainment.

Most summer days from the time we turned 12, my mom dropped us off at the pool at noon and picked us up at 5, knowing we were safe. On an average winter weekend, we went to five sessions of ice skating.  That city allowed its kids to be active. You can’t be ashamed of that.

Cahokia was filled with hard-working people with good kids who had parents who cared – and a lot of folks who turned out to be upstanding citizens.  Instead of turning our heads the other way when people talk badly about it, we should be proud of where we came from and remember the good times.

The friendships.

The fun.

The good people.

The memories.

97 thoughts on “I’m Not Ashamed of Cahokia

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  1. Loved this post and couldn’t agree more. I have amazing memories of living in St. Joe’s subdivision, walking to and from Holy Family, riding bikes to Kempers and the ball fields. It wasn’t until becoming a Mom (and living out of state) that I realized how lucky I was to have grown up in a town with an ice skating rink and movie theater. Thanks for the memories!

    1. I loved living in cahokia. I hope my kids have wonderful memories of the places they grow up in also. That’s what I want for them to be happy and healthy and have good memories!! ( other things as well but I don’t want to take up too much room lol. Thanks

    2. Yes I agree totally Cahokia was the best place back in the mid to late seventies. I remember my friends from the surrounding subdivisions playing football on a tournament basis, but not organized as far as a league. St joe would play park lane and bridge dale would play st Louis gardens. In the winter we would catch the by-state and go down town and play Frisbee from the roof tops of the skyscapers one building to another. We also went to the music shop and they would let us play their guitars. We would go up in the arch and look down at my friends writing K-she 95 in the snow down below by pushing the snow with their feet in real big letters. Those were good times and what a waste the Parks College is, and to see it now when back then the property was kept so nice and hundreds of kids roaming the campus.

  2. Well written and so true. I do not live there anymore, but my parents still do and I visit their frequently as I still have some of my best friends that live there. I had a wonderful childhood growing up there and while it makes me sad the shape it is in now, I could not agree more with you about not being ashamed of coming from Cahokia. I also grew up in St. Joe’s subdivision and rode my bike to Kempers and spent summers at the pool, winters at the ice rink, and watched plenty of movies at the theater. Great memories for sure!

  3. I am not ashamed of living my first 29 years in Cahokia. However, it saddens me to see the change that my hometown has made in the last 25 years. My parents are gone now and I don’t get over there much anymore but suffice to say it is not the town I lovingly remember. I think some people ridicule those of us that comment on Cahokia. I, for one am not criticizing, I am just sad that the homes that I lived in as well as the areas around them are in such disrepair. What happened to taking pride in your home and property? That is not a money thing, that is having respect for others and yourselves. That is my issue with Cahokia as it is today. I moved 25+ years ago because of my husband getting a new job. He moved me kicking and screaming because I did not want to leave my home. As the years past and I saw my hometown change, I am now thankful that I have wonderful memories of the Cahokia that I loved and was raised in.

  4. I have been in Cahokia pretty much my whole life , no I’m not rich, no I don’t have a big fancy house , no I don’t have a 3 figure job, but what I do have is good memories of when I grew up in Parkfeild Terrace when it was a good place to be . The friends I had there I still have a few of these some I have just reunited with and I’m sure they will agree with me on this. I have 2 sons they have been raised here, and no they are not bad kids, they don’t destroy things in the area or tear anything up that’s because I was a mother and raised them to the best of my ability , they have friends that they will remember for years to come and they have went to school with since they started school, and I will never down Cahokia for where I was raised and when I do move away, I will still not be ashamed of the way or the place I was raised this is my home town and no one can take that from me.

  5. Totally agree!!! It was a cool place to live. I am a St. Joe’s girl, walked to Holy Family School and Kempers.

  6. Awsome article! I grew up on St.Paul in st joe and back then our town was bright,clean,and beautiful. So much has changed and it is sad. Hard to brag of your roots sometimes because of those changes butt im very happy with my life because of those roots. Totally remember taking my return pop bottles to kempers just to get tons of penny candy:) thank for bringing this story to light! God bless:)

  7. Couldn’t agree more, Cahokia was a good place to live and be brought up…I used to live on Renois lane and now it’s so sad to drive down that very road that I was raised…so sad

    1. I agree with you Angie.
      I can also appreciate all that was written in the article.I miss the old days.
      The good times we had,when it was a safe area.

  8. I moved there in Summer of 1976 with my husband and two children under three. I moved out in 1998 after raising my children and having them graduating with honors and getting a divorce. I worked and they played with others in Bridgedale and had no problems except normal kid problems and teenage ones. After my next marriage we moved to Fairview Heights but the kids were grown. Enjoyed the park, swimming pool and neighbors. Yes it has gone downhill but I still have friends who still live there. I had no complaints about the years we lived there.

    1. i love growing up in cahokia alot of good memories are going to the pool hanging out at the sign ….the park….walking the streets…..and looking fr the parties ……i wouldnt trde it at all……and gay 90s was fun burger bar had great food…….

  9. I am not ashamed of Cahokia. I still live in the house I was born in on Richard Dr. You could walk all hours of the night and not worry about someone jumping you. Now it is to scary to walk at night. I remember when shop n save was a horse ranch, and the end of Richard was fields and ponds and our roller rink was a tent across from the firehouse. My dad hunted a fished at the end of Richard. My dad was also a volunteer fireman and we worked on floats for parades and mom was in the ladies auxiliary, then the fireman’s picnics were awesome. I knew all the policemen and if I did something wrong they were just like my parents and showed me the right way. Ventura drive-in, we must have went there every weekend. Highway 157 was a 2 lane road with gravel, our roads were pretty much dirt, but I have awesome memories of all the wonderful neighbors. All the neighbors looked out for all the kids and we knew everybody. We could go to every house in the neighborhood and come back with loads of candy from Halloween and it was fun doing fund raisers. Playing outside until dark hide a go seek, red light green light, Simon says, Mother may I and many more fun games. Times have changed and it is the young teenagers that make it a bad place. They don’t bother us and we don’t bother them. They drive like they have no sense, don’t even stop at stop signs. I live on a corner and I worry about my grandkids being hit by a car. I will live here as long as possible. We have some very nice and wonderful neighbors and that is why I still live here. I will never be ashamed of Cahokia, it is my home town!

    1. Janetta, is your maiden name Cox? You have just told the story of my life and I think we were neighbors. I was on Richard Dr. recently and went past your house and thought of you from way back in first grade! I don’t get to Cahokia very often, but I do love to come back and go down memory lane every chance I get. Cahokia will always be my home!!!

      1. I’m related to the Cox’s that at one time lived in Cahokia. My grandfather lived there until her passed away about 13 years ago. My aunt and uncle Howell lived there for many years and kept me for weeks in the summer. I miss playing in the streets and in the pool at their house. It’s sad now that I’ve lost my grandfather and my uncle and the house I had so many great memories in I most likely condemned or very close to it.

  10. I too am proud of where I came from.
    I am product of middle class living standards and social adaptability .
    No matter where I am or where I go I am truly proud to say ” YES , grew up there “.

  11. That was such an awesome article. I’m very proud of where I came from. I lived in st joes. My best friend lived in st joes as well. I wish it could back the way it was, but there aren’t to many neighborhoods like that now. Society has completely changed. Thanks again for posting that.

  12. this is an awesome post! kudos to you! I will NEVER be ashamed of where I came from and where I grew up. I know things are not like they were when we were kids, but when I drive through Cahokia, to this day, I see my childhood all over the place, not the crime, or the abandon homes, garbage or disrepair, I see my life then and it was wonderful and I would never change a thing, its made me who I am today, and that my friends, is someone who will always stand tall, and be proud, that in my heart I will always be a CAHOKIAN!!!!!

  13. Cahokia was the greatest place to grow up. I had a wonderful childhood there any friends. I as well remember the swimming pool, the ice skating rink, the roller rink the store that everyone love to go to Kempers. We rode our bikes all over the neighborhoodand all neighbors watched out for everyone children we all were so very close. neighbors were like family neighbors were great. Everyone knew everyone a real great place to grow up. I have such fond wonderful memories of Cahokia. I am not ashamed to say I lived in Cahokia.I am proud to have been a part of Cahokia. I still have family and friends that live there.

  14. Cahokia was a great place to grow up and live in, I still got family down there and it saddens me how it went down hill like it did but never ashamed to know thats where I was born and raised,

  15. I also am proud of the Cahokia I grew up in. I am proud we had NO worries about walking the streets or riding our bicycle back then. We had a town where daddys and some mommas worked for a living. We were considered upper middle class people. We(most of us) learned great work ethics from our parents. YES! I was raised in Cahokia IL and am very proud to say so.

  16. i was raised in cahokia and i live on east fifth street and parkfield and goodman and agnes i am not ashamed of cahokia my dad was a firemen for camp jackson and tell this day he talks abt the stuff with my kids and my fiance and eerybody

  17. I, too, was raised in Cahokia. In Bruce Place, 2100 Sycamore St., behind the bowling alley. Lots and lots of memories. I don’t think it will ever go back to the way it was, but wouldn’t it be nice if it could.

  18. I lived in Parklane Manor until I married and moved away. I went through school with some of the people that have posted on here. When I tell people that I grew up in a town that was like the Leave it to Beaver Show they laugh, or look confused. I just drove through Cahokia a couple of weeks ago with my family and saw the house that I grew up in (well kept up), the high school and the elementary school that we walked to every day from 1st grade on. I saw the field where the Futura Drive-In was where I had my 1st job. I will never forget my youth, the friends I made, the neighbors we had, the safe way of living that we didn’t know we had until much later. I will always be proud to be a Cahokian.

    1. Well, I grew up in Cahokia also, I’ve lived mainly around Maplewood tomboy & dime store Cahokia lounge area from 1955-81. had some of the best times of my life here, and great memories, and now I’m back.

  19. I have very fond memories of Cahokia! I am proud to be from Cahokia! I’m still friends with my classmates after 30 years!!

  20. I too grew up in Cahokia and raised my family there. We still have many family members living there, My mom, was passed away almost a year ago, lived in our home on Jerome Lane (by the bank) for 60 years. Her granddaughter now lives there. They are both named Jean. I used to walk to the roller rink all the time where I took lessons & skated competition. (That took up most of my teenage years.) Our parents never worried about us as they knew the whole town watched out for us, as we did when our kids grew up. I will always be proud to say I grew up in Cahokia. I wish times were so good for our grandchildren.
    Janet McElligott Carrico

    1. Hi Janet! My brother Todd and I still think of you guys now and then. Hope you are doing well. Brad Stephens

  21. I’m a St Joseph gardens girl. born and raised there ….proud of what it was and what it made me as a person today !!! Mayor Cornwell in my opinion is doing a great job with what he has to work with (pretty big fish to fry) I’m sure he wishes every day for a magic wand or a time capsule lol because like all of us he remembers all the good things about Cahokia as do we…….Cahokia may never be what it once was but we all have many fond memories of a town we loved and nobody can take that from us !!!! So all I can say to the people talking bad about Cahokia is …..DON’t MAKE ME GO CAHOKIA ON YA” lol

  22. Thank you! I grew up in Cahokia. I now live in Highland (where my husband grew up) and teach in O’Fallon. Let me tell you….the looks I get! I usually start with a joke, like, “No, I’m not a gang banger, I’ve never been on welfare, and I don’t sell drugs. I do, however, have a tattoo.” That usually stops it immediately from going down a path where I get snippy. I appreciate that you wrote this. 🙂

  23. I grew up in maplewood, first leon and then preston. We walked to the maplewood theatrer behind the old dairy queen every friday night and back home. There was no nova plaza, pool, or ice rink. We had a ben franklin and bess iga on mildred ave, but we were never bored. We roller skated in the street and rode our bikes for hours and our parents were never worried. Ilived my whole life within a little circle and loved it. Mildred ave, leon,, preston lane, and 35 yrs married life on joliet dr. Been gone 15 years but still miss. Best memories of my life.

  24. I grew up in Cahokia the old part Green St.
    I have family that still lives in CahokiaI. It is so sad to see how it has gone down. I lived there for 32 years. I moved to St. JOE when I got married. I drive by my old house the one I grew up in and its sad the neighborhood is not the same. When people ask where Im from o say Cahokia they say oh like omg. I always say
    I lived there when it was safe and a great place to live.

  25. Oh the memories! We moved into our newly built home in Cahokia Heights right after I was born. I lived at 1151 Smith Street until I went off to college. My folks continued to live there until my dad died in 1989. All of our neighbors were amazing. We cared about each other as if we were family. I still get together with LaDonna Staley Miller and Jeanne Huntley Donald. We’ve known each other since 1st Grade! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It was such a great part of my journey. Kitty West, aka Kathy Culbertson

  26. I’m totally proud of where I came from also. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. I loved Cahokia. What a great place to have grown up in.

  27. My folks lived on Richard for almost 20 years and then moved to Marsielles by St Catherines. I saw alot of bad movies at NOVA plaza. I spent alot of time riding my bike through the park and behind the Shop N Save. My mom worked at the Kmart for I dont know how long. my godparents still live there. I have great memories growing up, We had so much to do and go. I miss that .

  28. I grew up in Cahokia. My Dad built a 3 bedroom ranch home on Jerome Lane where I lived from the age of 5 until I graduated from Cahokia High School in 1966. My parents remained in that house until he passed away. The house is now in great disrepair. I had a wonderful and safe childhood in Cahokia. My only regret for Cahokia is that it has not remained a beautiful and safe place for the next generation to grow up in.

  29. I grew up there and I am not ashamed of where I lived.. Me and my family lived in Bridgedale at 65 West Adams until I was in my 20’s. I remember being a kid riding your bikes from one end of town to the other, we stayed out till the street lights came on playing red light green light, red rover, riding our bikes behind the bug man.. The quarterback club and just how everyone knew someone who knew someone that you knew. Oh and remember Homecoming at the park when I think everyone in Cahokia was there.. Lots of great memories, I wouldn’t change any of it…

  30. Well said Elizabeth!! Lives and places change. Sometimes not always for the best but our memories are similar. This warmed my heart and made me smile… Thanks. We are truly blessed to have lived in Cahokia!

  31. I love cahokia! I have very fond memories of riding my bike to the park and pool. We I drive up to visit my grandma I pass her old jewelry store and it makes me so sad how it looks today. My family was a big part of that town.

  32. I am also sad that Cahokia has gotten so bad! I do have fond memories of Cahokia…. especially playing soft ball with some amazing girls!
    Great article!

  33. We lived there from 1965-1978 on East 5th. Our boys played in the ballfields behind our house, and rode their bikes to Kempfers. We made many good friends there and still keep up with some even though we are scattered now. I loved living there at the time.

  34. I moved to Cahokia to live closer to my parents They moved into City View subdivisionafter my aunt did My aunt lived in City View when it was first built It was the first sudivision off of 157 There were no others It was all fields and farm land things changed and more subdivisions popped up. bridgedale and others When we moved ther and I raised my five kids it was so nice. We walked the streets at night, the kids played until dark and we left our windows open at night to get the breeze through. I shopped at Flinns market. Walked to the grocery store or had them delivered Grandma and grandpa Flinn was everybody’s friend we felt safe, lived happy and worked and raised our family withour fear. Cahokia was a good place to life. Now after all the years I see the changes and I am glad for the memories but glad I am living somewhere else. All good things change with the years and sometimes we can’t. Stop the changes I am glad I have the memories

  35. Our family came to Cahokia when I started first grade and my brothers and I graduated there, yes it’s changed alot but it is our home town and I still have friends I visit there. We lived on Mullins Ave., subdivision behind the high school.

  36. Nice article! I drive through Cahokia just for the memories! What makes me sad is that everyone is gone. But at least we have social media to stay connected to our past!

    1. Yes, fb has been a great place to stay connected to all the great memories from Cahokia and all the wonderful friends that I made in school. I lived in St John’s and City View. Went to school at Chartrand, Cahokia Elementary and Jr. High behind the high school then to Wirth Jr. High and then 4 years at the good old CHS. Loved every moment of it. Rode my bike everywhere and went to the Shopping center with friends and just had a great childhood there. I remember going to the “swamp” (where Doris Ave. is now) to hunt for frogs and snakes in biology class. Just a great time lost forever.

  37. What a great blog post. Reading through the other posts I was reminded of so many great memories that had been overshadowed by the decline. I cannot remember a single second being afraid while living in Cahokia. Thanks for sharing this, and I look forward to reading future posts. LOVE this—-keep up the great work. Good stuff
    Angela (Odem) Palmier

  38. I really enjoyed your comments about Cahokia. I grew up there too and have many similar memories of the place. It was a great place to grow up and it’s sad to see it in such bad shape now. It makes me mad when I hear people who aren’t from Cahokia make negative comments about all people from Cahokia because they falsely assume it’s always been a bad place to live. It wasn’t and would be great to see the town recover from the hardships it suffers now. There are people there trying to make it a better place.

    1. Park Lane was a great place to live. Great people and lots of things to do while growing up. Renee, I grew up a few houses down the street and remember you, your mom and brother. Life is Good. “Perry”

  39. I remember growing up in the trailer park on route 3. I am still friends with the kids I grew up with there. I miss those days and it makes me sad to see that home has become a run down shadow of it’s former self. 17 years ago it was an amazing place to grow up. I graduated from Cahokia Highschool. I really had intended to raise my own kids there. I wish it had stayed the way it was, I would still be there.

  40. Wonderful article!! Couldn’t agree more!! So sad to see what Cahokia has become, but wouldn’t trade what it was like when we grew up there.

  41. This is amazing and so well put, I have some great memories and will never lie about where I’m from, I owe being able to skate and play hockey to that town and nothing can change that! Thanks for this

  42. Today, Cahokia is Cahokia only in name. It does not remotely resemble the Cahokia where we grew up. Back then the homes were not big but they were all nicely kept. They weren’t in disrepair, torn up or burned out. Everyone enjoyed their neighbors and got to know them well. Kids played in the street, rode bikes and went to the Comanche Roller Rink all day Saturday and Sunday. We were proud of our high school and loved our Friday night football games. The Comanche statute in front of the school was treasured because it was a gift from one of the senior classes from the 60s. Every summer the carnival came to town for 3 days. It set up in the triangle near the intersection of Rt 157 and Rt 3. It was so much fun with the carnival rides and cotton candy. We played softball at St Joseph League or Khoury League fields. We did our grocery shopping at Tom Boy or Tri-City. Remember the dime store by the Tom Boy store? You walked up to the Dairy Queen window to place your order and they would slide the little screen door open to give you your 5 cent ice cream cone. Kassly Funeral Home was located on Rt 157 and it was the only mortuary in town. McDonalds had a walk up window. You had to eat your burger and fries in the car but they sure were tasty. You felt safe because you were safe. People worked hard, respected one another and never thought about moving to any other town. Population was in excess of 18,000 and growing. I’m so glad I have the good memories.

  43. we lived in Parklane on melvin dr.113 was our address,we lived there for awhile our kids walked the streets and walked to the school in back of the division never had to worry ,i liked living there.

  44. It was truely a great childhood my children begged us not to move and we hundred their wishes til they both graduated the day after our youngest graduated my husband moved a big truck in the driveway and we moved the next day..I return frequently as my granny built her home and is now 89 and she will be there as that is her home til heaven calls my sister my mom and myself have been trying hard to assist her in her stay to be safe. I remember playing and going to sleep in our front yard looking at stars and mom allowing us to sleep she would go to bed and leave front door open.locks did not seem important when we were kids and we didn’t think of taking from our neighbors or anyone else.Those were days when you fell on your bike someone would help you and then call your mom to tell her what happened.My love of memories about my childhood growing up are real and special only wish kids today could experience the freedom we use to have.Polititions ruined cahokia and still are..shame it has to be what it is today.

  45. I didn’t grow up in Cahokia, but Fairview Heights. The same things and memories can be said about it, as well. A place and time which birthed eternal memories which I will always be grateful. A different time and place which has been whittled away by urban decay. A sad testament to the day and age in which we live. What a huge difference a generation makes.

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