When describing my life as a kid growing up in Manhattan, IL ... this show is be a pretty good facsimile. I lived the Beaver and Wally life.
The Mundts were the Cleavers. I was the #3 son in a family of 4 boys. Mom was a stay-at-home mom. Dad worked a 9-to-5 job as an accountant. They were as perfect as June and Ward.
Like the Beav, I had few cares. I ran out the door early in the morning and didn't get back inside until dinner or maybe even bedtime. School, sports, and friends kept me busy.
During the summers, my brothers, friends and I could be found in our big yard playing ball of some kind. Or down the street at the church's basketball court.
Exchange the names of Beaver and Wally's friends ... Whitey, Eddie, and Lumpy for those of mine and my brothers: Buzz, Red Dog, Earl the Pearl, Duck and more. We were together constantly.
Back in those days, the population of the Village of Manhattan was under 1000. There was one public school. It provided classes for kids in kindergarten through 8th. Lots of the students were farm kids, as Manhattan was surrounded on all four sides with family farms.
Each of the grades had around 20 kids or so in it. As we progressed through the grades, we moved to a different classroom within the school building, but the faces at the school desks (or the sports teams) didn't change much over the years.
Most of the teachers at our school had taught there for years. Even decades. The school matriarch and First Grade Teacher, Anna McDonald, had taught my wife's father in a one-room school house early in her career. (Later, she taught my wife and I along with each of our siblings. Now that's real dedication.)
Yep, Manhattan, Illinois was the perfect place for a kid to grow up ... and I WAS Beaver Cleaver.
Move ahead to Manhattan, IL 2017:
While it's true that Manhattan has seen vast changes since the days I was a kid, it still remains a great place to call home. Its growth speaks volumes as to the quality of life that can be found there.
Because of its location, about an hour south of the Chicago Loop, located on the Metra Rail Line, and near major interstates and highways ... the Village offers residents the ability to commute to the City of Chicago and nearby work hubs, but the luxury of living a more laid-back suburban lifestyle.
The population of Manhattan has grown to around 7,400+ (2014) as a result. New subdivisions and new construction starts are common sites within its boundaries and surrounding areas.
The Manhattan School District 144 has now grown to 3 public schools to accommodate the growth and needs of the community:
- Anna McDonald School located at 200 Second Street in Manhattan. It has 450+ students, grades 3rd through 5th. (Ranked #2 Elementary School in Will County by Chicago Magazine - 2016)
- Wilson Creek Elementary located at 25440 S. Gougar Road, Manhattan. It serves over 400+ children, grades Pre-School through 2nd.
- Manhattan Junior High located at 15606 W. Smith Road in Manhattan. The Jr. High has approximately 430 students, 6th through 8th.
Manhattan also has a parochial school:
- St. Joseph's Catholic School located at 275 W. North Street in Manhattan. St. Joseph's has served its youth's academic needs for over 91 years. Students represent Pre-School through 8th grade.
Multiple pre-schools and daycare facilities are available within the community to help meet the needs of local families.
Manhattan students attend (public school) Lincoln-Way West High School (one of the high schools serving Lincoln-Way School District #210) located at 21701 S. Gougar Road in New Lenox.
The Park District of Manhattan is a vibrant and active one, offering a full-range of activities, programs, and events for toddlers through seniors. Having grown from just one park years ago, it now offers 7 park locations for its residents' enjoyment ... including the historic Baker-Koren Round Barn Farm.
The Manhattan - Elwood Public Library provides vital books, services, and educational opportunities to every age group within the village(s) and surrounding township(s). It's a cog of both communities and is continually adding new programs and events to serve residents.
Proud of its large Irish population and roots ... the Village has been the site of the Manhattan Irish Fest for well over 20 years. Manhattan Irish Fest will be held once again this year on March 3rd and 4th.
The Irish Fest Parade (held downtown Manhattan) will kick-off at 11 am on March 4th. I advise you arrive in town early on that day. The parade is enormously popular and well-attended!
If you haven't attended Manhattan Irish Fest before ... and would like to experience the true spirit of the Manhattan community, the Fest is a great time and way to do it. There are activities, music, food, entertainment, and much more offered throughout the Fest for every age to enjoy.
The info I offer above just begins to scratch the surface of all that is available and possible, should you live within (or visit) my hometown. The size of the town may have changed over the years, but the character of the Village of Manhattan and its residents has not.
Hope you'll visit Manhattan, IL soon ... or consider becoming a resident ...
* Hoping to Buy or Refinance a Home in Manhattan, Will County, or elsewhere in the Chicagoland area? Contact me! I'll put my 40+ years of Mortgage experience and expertise hard to work on your behalf.
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