Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Impromptu Meet and Greet in Polo, Illinois

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Toward the end of April, on our way to Ohio, Ruth and I passed through the town of Polo, Illinois. As always, Ruth had done extensive research to locate old historical buildings for me to photograph. Our first stop was a Masonic Lodge in the center of town. First, I photographed two vintage street lights that were on either side of the Masonic Lodge sign.

Then I crossed the street to get a better angle on the lodge sign, which was actually a globe that probably lit up at one time or maybe still does. It said, “Mystic Tie No. 187,” which is the name of the lodge organized in 1855.

Because it was around noon and the sun was high in the sky, I was struggling to capture the sign in good light. So I moved around and decided that the best spot to take the photo was in the middle of the crosswalk. As I began to set up my tripod, a car with two women inside, slowly approached the crosswalk and stopped.

“Where’s the best place to eat?” the driver said through the open window.

“I don’t know, I’m from Madison, Wisconsin,” I responded, with a smile on my face.

They both started giggling and then the passenger said, “I was just there last week. Well, thanks, anyway.” They drove away and I finished taking my shots. When I returned to the car, Ruth directed me to drive about two blocks from where we were parked to photograph a beautiful stone church called St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church.

I parked near the intersection where the church was located, grabbed my camera and tripod, and crossed the street to set up. As I was positioning my tripod, the car with the two women I had talked with a few minutes before pulled up and into my scene.

“We found two good places!” the driver said as they smiled, waved, and drove away.

When the intersection was clear, I again attempted to begin photographing, but a truck then pulled into the scene. As it came to a stop, the driver said, “If I smile, will you take my picture?” Then he impishly grinned and drove away.

I did finally capture a few scenes of the church and then Ruth directed me to an old school located down the street behind the church. I parked the car, took my camera equipment out of the back, and started to set up in the expansive parking lot in front of the school.

Just as I was composing my first shot, a pickup truck pulling a garden center trailer pulled into the scene. “Oh no, don’t park your trailer there!” I was thinking, as he started to circle around the parking lot.

As he passed me (and probably saw the look of dismay on my face), he shrugged and sheepishly said, “Sorry.” Then he drove away and I was finally left in peace to capture some images of the old, abandoned school.

The school was built in Greek architectural style with beautiful Ionic columns highlighting the entrance to the building. When I thought I was finished, I picked up my tripod and turned around to go back to the car, but Ruth was pointing toward the top of the building. I turned around and gave the school another look, but I didn’t see anything. When I got close to the car, she pointed out an old rusty school bell way above the entrance near the roof.

If that old school bell was still working, it should have begun ringing because it was certainly time to hit the road. We still had many more miles to travel that day, but we left that friendly little town with smiles on our faces.

Happy Shunpiking!


  1. My father, Lee Hummel owned "Hummel's Meat Market & Locker Plant" and also belonged to the local Masonic Lodge there, AND the Rotary. I went to that Grade School from 5th to 6th Grade. Graduated from Polo Community High School, class of 1965. Polo was a great town to grow up in. We lived on a family estate about 5 miles outside Polo, in Rural Route 3.
    Great photos btw.

    1. Len, thanks for sharing your history with us. You must have a lot of fond memories. The 60's were the best, in my opinion. We thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to Polo and wished we could have stayed longer.

    2. Hi Joann, you have a truly artistic and excellent site here. There's certainly a lot to see, so I will be coming back regularly to have a look-see & look-through.
      Polo has remained at a population of around 2400 to 2500 for 70-80 years. I & my wife live now in the Philippines for the past 30 years and haven't been back there (to Illinois) for many years, but I certainly do have fond memories of "a more innocent and trusting time" during the 1950's & 60's.
      I also have a strong suspicion that Polo {at least among the "ruling elite" there} had strong ties to Freemasonry and German-heritage. It also has one of the most beautiful and well built small-town libraries in the world. Carnegie chose Polo as one of his towns to contribute a library. Now it's a National Historical Site.
      Thanks again for putting up a great site here. God bless.

    3. Len, thanks for telling us about the Carnegie Library. We missed that when we were there. Do you know if your father's meat market building is still there? We're making a list for a return trip to Polo. In case you didn't notice this, you can subscribe to get an email when I post new photos (see Subscribe in the blue menu bar on ShunpikingToHeaven.com). Also, you can subscribe to get an email notification when we post new blog stories (see the Subscribe link in the right-hand column of ShunpikingToHeaven.blogspot.com). Thanks for your interest and for commenting about your childhood in Polo. Blessings!

    4. Hi Joann. My father's Meat Market and Locker Plant was just next door to "Golden Bowl" bowling alley, just a block or so from Main Street/Mason Street.
      Here is a facebook photo that a friend sent me a couple years ago: https://www.facebook.com/richard.unger.3158 ... hope the link works.