Two friends of mine recently said that whenever they are near Southern Illinois they feel a psychic pull towards the campus of Southern Illinois University, their alma mater. Other SIU grads including myself feel the same uncanny pull towards this unique school. An attraction that I believe is stronger than the fact that SIU is our alma mater is that... SIU was never intended to be a what it is right now.
SIU pioneered a nationally recognized aviation program,
a medical school that caters to a shortage of doctors in rural areas,
a Radio and TV department that was one of the top programs in the country, and a nationally recognized creative writing program, from which Saluki Marooned editor Nathan Beck graduated.
Plus SIU is a major research institution.
To the north of Carbondale is flat Illinois farmland, which has some of the most productive soil in the world. And to the south lies the rolling hills of the Ozark foothills and Shawnee National Forest, the Garden of the Gods, Giant City, a cypress swamp, and numerous lakes and streams. The Mississippi River borders Southern Illinois to the west, and the Ohio river to the east, and they converge at the historic town of Cairo (Keh-Row)
This region has also experienced more colorful natural and man made events than have occurred in some entire states!
During my time at Southern, the university was in the midst of great social change, including the Vietnam war, desegregation, and student unrest, much of it propelled by the restless baby boom generation. On top of that Southern Illinois was and still is a depressed area, with many students attending the school being the first generation of college students in their families.When I attended SIU from 1970-74 the institution had a reputation as a party school, with bars lining South Illinois Avenue (called "the strip") which I became well acquainted with. Yet, I spent a good part of my waking hours working on WSIU radio and TV, because I ate, slept, and breathed broadcasting. One of my friends said that is why I loved the school so much, because it combined a beautiful campus, demanding study during weekdays, with going for all the gusto I could get during the week ends! But alas all things change: 1910 American Tap, and a cluster of bars and other nightclubs, have been cleared from the strip, and SIU, along with the nation, is a long way in time from the long hair, hyperactive behavior of the 60's and 70's. The exciting days, with long hair and beards, peace signs and beads, hippies and straights, and the most outrageous clothing ever seen within the past two centuries...is long gone, and almost out of memory for some people.
And this is why I spent eight years writing this novel, and included as many SIU alum and students as I could in the process. My hope is the more people who read this novel...the more prospective students will consider attending this unique, and colorful university.
While attending Southern, I worked at WSIU Radio and TV and WIDB Radio. During the past 40 years, I've filled positions as a news director, executive producer, editor, reporter and anchorman at radio and TV stations in Illinois, Iowa, California, Arizona and Tennessee--mostly in news departments. I am now an anchor and producer at a news/talk station in Tennessee. I also own a small non-broadcast related business.