My drive to Hanover was a peaceful, quiet one. I knew I was leaving the area of major cities when I started seeing farms and livestock dotting the horizon. The flat highway was now rolling road hills and winding curves. I haven't been on roads like this since I was a kid going to the Ozarks on a family vacation.
The directional sign on the road had an arrow with the singular word "Hanover." I made my turn to go down a lonely two-lane road. Each side of the road was naturally landscaped with very large old trees. I followed the road, and after a few miles, I was at my destination. The first thing I noticed driving into the village was an old brick building with the word "MOTEL" in large black letters on a white rectangular board. I just entered the village of Hanover and I feel like I had gone back in time over 100 years. As I slowly drove around the corner, the motel still in my sight, I turned to see what I call a "One Horse Town where even the horse left."
I pulled up to the building I was going to be living in and parked. I got out of my car and surveyed the buildings. I've lived in Chicago and suburbs of all my life. I've gone on trips and driven through small touristy towns and thought how cool it must be to live in an area like this, to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life-- no honking horns or loud sirens every few minutes to hear. I was looking forward to actually enjoying the peace and the sound of birds in the morning, watching the sunrise, and walking down a street in peace. This was my new home.
This was my new home.
While waiting to meet my landlord, I saw a police officer getting out of his car. I asked..."Are you Andy Taylor?" and he looked at me and asked, "Are you, Otis?" I chuckled.
After a few moments, I went into the tiny building that housed the Village Hall on one side and the Police Department on the other. I introduced myself to the officer who turned out to be the Chief from the next village over who was sitting and chatting with this village's Police Chief..who was behind a desk wearing a regular shirt. They looked like a couple of guys just chewing the fat. Based on my research of the demographics of the area there is very little no crime in the area.
I met my landlord, and we looked at the apartment. He said...IF you want it, IF you like the area...and before he said the next words, I had my little stack of cash outstretched to him. There were no "ifs" in my mind. I didn't care too much about what the place looked like. I was going to make it work. After 43 years of working, raising a family, and being stressed out by daily life...there were no ifs.
He took me over to the Village Hall to get paperwork filled out, but the door was locked. He said that the clerk must be out reading meters. Can you imagine? Our overpaid spoiled rotten elected officials each have about 25 - 40 aides answering phones, writing emails, filing papers and other clerical duties, and here is a tiny little village where even the Village Clerk reads meters.
We took a walk across the village (about 100 yards) to the Post Office. He showed me the P.O. Boxes and explained to me in the downtown area everyone gets a free P.O. Box. "Yes," I said, "FREE." He said I could come back later to get one, and wanted to show me the thrift store wanted to open which I could run for him if interested.
He took me into the store, and it was chock full of stuff. The place is called Hoarders and for good reason. He is what I call a Level 2 Hoarder. Lots of stuff, but neatly boxed and stacked. There are pathways of decent size, and no stuff was laying around. We chatted a bit more when his friend walked in. He was a happy, polite guy who was very welcoming to me.
After the Landlord left, I was on my own to explore, however, almost everything was closed- the post office, Village Hall, even the Library. I began to experience a feeling as if I were the center of the universe. There was nothing around me. It was so quiet except for the occasional truck. I felt like I was in a ghost town. "Where was everyone?" I wondered.
So, I decided to check out Charlie's, the ONLY diner in town. I did a little research on them before I left my hometown and saw they have some very good reviews. I entered and noticed I was the only one in here also...except the waitress and cook, of course. The lady was very polite. She knew I wasn't from around there. She welcomed me, and we had a polite conversation. I ordered and had a seat.
I took out my phone to call my family, however, there was no service available. The waitress informed me that "No..the major providers don't work out here." She told me of one man who walked to the top of a hill to get his phone to work. There were two companies that had towers in the area, but neither was my cell provider. So, here I was with no way to getting a hold of anyone to let them know I was okay. I was getting concerned. She suggested I drive to the Wal-Mart where I could tap into their wireless service. The only problem was that it was about 25 miles away.
I chuckled at this point. It's the middle of the day, everything was closed except the diner, and I didn't have any phone service or GPS to help me get to where I needed to go.
I truly believe I have entered the Twilight Zone. What lays ahead for me in the future? Stay tuned...
Click to read Hanover IL Pop. 750 Pt. 1: In the Beginning