on the banks of the wabash, far away
Tonight I was standing in Millennium Park overlooking the ice rink. Skating has long ended for the night, and a snowflake in every inch of sky was Jack Frost’s promise to Chicago. The city’s lit buildings and lit trees alike were dusted with a Christmassy layer of powdered sugar as if the Nutcracker Prince were shortly to ride a marzipan sleigh up Michigan Avenue to show off his glittering candy metropolis to his beloved Marie.
I’ve been the Art Director for the ISOC for many years, and have been designing the dinner programs, the tickets, and drawing the cartoons since 1986. This year, I was also able to create a booklet (pdf) about the history of the ISOC, using pictures from the archive (generously maintained by the UIC).
The dinner itself was held at the Fairmont Hotel in the Imperial Ballroom. The festivities began with the presentation of colors by the cadets of the Culver Military Academy while Miss Indiana sang the National Anthem. After the invocation by Valparaio University President Alan Harre, and the toast by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, the lights were dimmed for the Necrology—where the names of the Society members who have left us in the last year are read aloud, and a candle lit in their honor is snuffed out. Past President William McClintic read the words of Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley…ìI cannot say and I will not say that he is dead, he is just away; with a cheery smile and a wave of the hand he has wandered into an unknown land. Mild and gentle as he was brave, he gave his life to simple things. Think of him still as the same I say, he is not dead, he is just away.î
Dick Judson’s Orchestra played Back Home Again in Indiana, at first mournfully, and then crescendoed into the swinging jazz number we know it to be. Next, dinner was served. The menu:
Composed Salad of Smoked Trout and Grilled Asparagus with Red Bliss Potatoes, Roma Tomatoes, Butter Lettuce
Camembert Phyllo Purse
Seared Filet of Beef and Barbecued Quail
Porcini Mushroom Sauce
Thyme Haricot Verts and Wisconsin Cheddar Dauphinoisse Potatoes
Frozen Cappuccino Layers of Meringue and Cappuccino Ice Cream with Candied Orange topped with Hot Fudge
The entertainment this year was the Smothers Brothers, who were as funny as ever. In addition to singing, their usual sibling banter, and an obligatory visit from the Yo-Yo Man, the Brothers showed short clips of their counter-culture TV show, Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
The evening ended with all the members singing On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away. As the ISOC members left the ballroom, the snow was falling outside. I walked out of the doors of the hotel, and into the Indiana Society of Chicago’s new century.