The Stuff that Surrounds Us: #1 – Hail to the Orange

Inspired by a post I read on The Marion House Book, I want to take a look at my belongings and the story they tell of who I am and what I value. I’m constantly culling. Books are passed along via BookMooch or the book swap shelf in my condo; clothing is given to friends, my sister, or The Brown Elephant. I love nothing more than shedding the items I no longer need. It’s cleansing – for the house and the soul.

With all this molting, what does that say about the things I keep? I want to examine the things I hold dear. While the aforementioned Emma is doing a series of 52 items (one a week over the next year), I’m not sure yet how far this series will go or where it will take me. Along the way, I’d love to hear about the things you treasure in your homes.

Presenting Item #1: My University of Illinois Paraphernalia

I was not the first member of my family to attend the U of I. In fact, my great-grandfather graduated in 1907 with a degree in Engineering. While I was down in Champaign, I was able to access the University Archives to find the addresses of the apartments he lived in during his four-year stay, one hundred years prior to my own. From him, I have the book of Illinois Songs he received as a Freshman in 1903:

It features “By Thy Rivers Gently Flowing” – now the Illinois state song:

The lesser known (and alleged University Hymn at the time) “Watch on the Rhine”:

And the comedic “A Frog Tragedy”:

From a great-uncle graduating the College of Law in 1915, I have the program for the commencement ceremonies:

I also have the commencement ceremony program from a great-aunt who got her degree in the school of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1935:

Also featured in the “group photo” of all my Illini Memorabilia is my own diploma from U of I. I was fortunate enough to get both my Undergraduate and Graduate degrees in Champaign-Urbana (though I seem to have misplaced said Graduate diploma).

These small documents represent so much for me. I was truly blessed to be born into a family that places such value on education. I can’t imagine the sacrifices made to send a son to college in 1903. I wonder what campus was like in 1915, on the eve of such worldwide change. I am unspeakably proud to be the legacy to a woman who sought higher education in the early thirties (and the family who supported her along the way). While other family members at the time may have sought their education elsewhere, the fact that I attended the same institution as so many forebears makes much of the Campus hallowed ground for me.

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About Helena

Helena lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and two cats. Her boyfriend thinks she's awesome. Her cats agree.

Posted on April 23, 2011, in My Home and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I have pictures that were taken by a great-great uncle when he visited my UG school in the 1920s. They are so much fun!

  2. That’s a great idea for a blog series! I love old books & documents, and the 1915 program for the commencement ceremonies looks just amazing. You’re lucky to have such meaningful things from your family =)

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