Posts Tagged ‘Rolla’

My St. Patrick’s Day Rant

We live in Rolla, MO, a smallish city of roughly 19,000 people.  The place is  dominated by a state university, Missouri University of Science and Technology, to be specific.   It is a mainstay of Rolla, a large employer for the area.   The university began in 1870 as the School of Mines and Metallurgy.  Now it’s known as the school in Missouri to enroll at if you want to be an engineer, work in the field of computers, or work in any field of science or mathematics.

For some unknown reason, back in the early 1900s, a group of students decided to have a party, and they decided to  pick a saint to give their party concept an air  of “honor”.   They chose St. Patrick, claiming he was the patron saint of engineers.  Who knew engineers had a patron saint?  I sure didn’t!  Supposedly good old St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and did do his level best to spread the gospel message to the natives of the Emerald Isle, but patron saint of engineers?

St. Patrick and his minions arrive at the Rolla St. Patrick's Day parade

St. Patrick and his minions arrive at the Rolla St. Patrick’s Day parade

Every year since that group of students began their traditional party,  the week in March leading up to St. Patrick’s Day has become  a time for the students to slack off, and for some, it’s time to just party the days away; beer, booze, and who knows what else.    Rolla gets in on the “fun”  by holding a St. Patrick’s Day parade.  It’s the typical small-town parade: high school marching bands, some honorary civic-minded citizens wearing various green outfits smiling and waving from convertibles as they are driven along the  parade route, boy and girl scout groups, people on horseback, dogs decorated in green costumes, some of the college students march in the parade, some groups build floats for the parade.   The parade lasts a little over an hour and   then the partying begins anew.

As I was listening to the local radio station on Monday morning, I heard that one of Rolla’s ministers went to the latest city council meeting to inform them as to  how the church’s property was mistreated by party-goers.  People with no intention of attending the church had filled the parking lot with their cars, and some folks decided to hold their  parties in the parking lot!  Of course, those happy folks didn’t clean up after themselves.   The church’s worshippers, on  Sunday morning, couldn’t find many parking spots due to the partiers leaving their cars in the church’s lot.  City council was then  informed about  some idiot or idiots  who went to Lion’s Club Park and drove their car(s) in the grass, in 360 degree circles, or “donuts”, tearing up areas of the park.  The other act of vandalism that irritated me when I found out about it was  that an Eagle Scout’s project had been destroyed.  There is a nice, new memorial to veterans near a nice walking trail in Rolla, on the southwest side of town.  Last year,  a boy scout wanting to earn his Eagle Scout badge,  built a proper burn pit  so that the park could host the proper ceremonies for retiring old American flags.  The burn pit was totally torn apart and destroyed.

I was told years ago, in the late 1970s and during the  1980s, the St. Patrick partiers  shenanigans were getting out of control; businesses and other personal  properties were being damaged.  The city council and mayor had a meeting with the University’s Chancellor and told him to  get the celebrations under control or St. Patrick’s wouldn’t be celebrated anymore.  The University complied and the damaging  shenanigans ceased.   I think it’s time for the Mayor and city council to visit the current Chancellor and let her know that destruction of property in Rolla isn’t going to be tolerated.

Granted, I don’t have proof that drunken college students partied in a church’s parking lot, destroyed park property, and destroyed a burn pit.  However, when parties are broadly advertised and people flock to them, it’s pretty much a guarantee that people behaving badly will be the result.

I do have to wonder why the University allows the students to start their partying days before St. Patrick’s Day even arrives.  I was at the Post Office on Tuesday, March 10th, and across the street, the fraternity house had 2 members standing on the front yard drinking beer and blasting music.  At least it was country music, but to some that musical choice would be a crime!

My question  to the University is if you want to have a parade, crown a St. Patrick and pick a Queen of Love and Beauty, then why not  do so on the morning of the parade?   Those events could happen at 10 am and then the parade could begin at 11:00.  Tell the professors that classes and assignments, tests and quizzes will still happen that week  so that the students will still have to work and not have a bunch of free time to while away with drinking.  If the beer bashes don’t begin days before the parade and only happen  Friday night and after the parade, perhaps some of the damage done by the partiers will be minimal.

To businesses and churches with parking lots within walking distance of the parade and the campus proper, my husband wondered why don’t they charge money to park in their lots?   That’s what lots in St. Louis do when people drive in for a sporting event.  Or block your lot off.  Yes, it’s a hassle as you might have to have employees or church volunteers man the lot to make sure the barriers aren ‘t moved but that would be another way to keep the idiots at bay.

My rant is over,  and this video clip about the real St. Patrick might be enlightening for the university community.

What the Referee’s Wife Saw and Heard

My husband is a high school  football referee.  The  high school football season in Missouri  is winding down and play-off games begin in earnest this coming Friday, which will ultimately lead to the  teams that  will play in the state championships held in the Edward Jones Dome in  St. Louis in late November.   referee whistle

Usually, I attend the home football games for Rolla High’s Bulldogs  as child #4 marches in the band(they’re an awesome band, by the way) and child #5 sings in the choir which traditionally sings the National Anthem before the home football games begin.  Husband   travels on his Fridays, in the  late afternoons,  to towns I’ve never heard of in order to referee  high school football games.   He does get paid for performing  referee duties, which is a nice perk of the hobby.  He is also evaluated during a game by an assessor who will meet with him after a game to point out what he did well and what areas he needs to work on.  Did you know that, about referee assessors?  Now you do!

Referees standing at attention during the National Anthem.

Referees standing at attention during the National Anthem.

This past Friday, Rolla’s game was out of town so I decided to go with my husband to Hermann, Missouri to watch him in action.  He was to referee the game between the Hermann Bearcats(what is a bearcat anyhow?  I don’t think one really exists in Nature!) and the Union Wildcats.    Hermann is a quaint town, sitting high up on the banks of the Missouri River.  It was founded in the 1830s  by the Deutsch Ansiedlungs-Gesellschaft zu Pennsylvania (that mouthful translates to German Settlement Society of Pennsylvania!) Germans coming to Hermann had a goal to build a German community with agriculture, industry, and commerce being the three economic areas to keep the new community thriving.  On a mini-tour of Hermann a couple years ago with my parents and oldest daughter, we learned that the German immigrants took note of the hills and the  rocky soils and found it similar to the soils in Germany where vineyards thrive and so, with ingenuity and hard work, the new immigrants planted vineyards for their own families and the Missouri wine industry’s seeds were born.  For more about Hermann and visiting this unique town, click on this link.

Hermann, MO nestled by the MIssouri River

Hermann, MO nestled by the MIssouri River

Vineyards in Hermann, MO

Vineyards in Hermann, MO

Hermann MO

.Hermann’s high school is much smaller than Rolla’s. I didn’t realize that until the announcer asked the Senior football players, cheerleaders, band, cross country team members, and softball players to come to the field, and their parents were asked to go to the track.  There were probably 25 Seniors to be honored-a much smaller amount than Rolla had on their Seniors Recognition Night.  Despite being a smaller high school, they had the requisite artificial turf field that seems all the “rage” in high school football, a nice seating area for home and away fans, and a nice concessions kitchen and restrooms facility.  The scoreboard was more high tech than Rolla’s; it was digital and it  put the players’  faces, uniform numbers and  playing  positions up on the screen  when they made a play.   When Hermann scored or got an advantage in the game, their was a “bearcat roar” emanating from that scoreboard!  I think it’d be cool if Rolla got a digital scoreboard, with a bulldog roar in it’s sound system.  I don’t know what a digital  scoreboard costs, but alert the Booster Club!  If the Hermann Bearcats can have one, why not the Rolla Bulldogs??

Hermann Bearcats

As I watched the Seniors step out, one by one to be honored, I noticed that one of the senior cheerleaders walked stiffly to her parents, her arms held bent at a crooked angle, but a broad smile on her face.  Her proud parents hugged her tightly as she reached their arms, and she gladly presented her mom with a small bouquet of roses.  I knew from the girl’s stiff bodily movements that she had Cerebral Palsy.  After the Seniors were honored and the cheerleaders gathered, I noticed that another one of the cheerleaders had Down Syndrome.  I paid attention to this cheerleading squad and those two girls, despite their  disabilities, did well.  They kept up with their squad doing the cheers, they fully participated in all the cheers, even the fancier ones performed at the half-time show.  They were both  lifted up high by their fellow cheerleaders, when the squad formed two towers, lifting each girl up to the top, supporting them with their arms as each girl stood up, smiled, and waved their arms high.  That formation  brought much applause from the audience.  Kudos to the Hermann Cheerleading Squad and its advisor(s) for letting these two young ladies be a part of the squad.  In a society that fixates on the physically beautiful, or handsome, or athletic prowess, it was refreshing and joyful to see these two girls give their all to cheerleading and to be allowed that chance to be a part of a group.  Later on in the game, a group of students in the bleachers decided to do a large group selfie picture and they made sure that those  two girls were in the picture with them.

It's Good!

It’s Good!

Hermann played a valiant game but lost to Union by a close score, 35-32.  As I sat on the Hermann side in my non-Hermann colors(I wore a dark green jacket, which didn’t blend in with Hermann’s royal blue and white  clad fans)I got to hear some annoying shout outs to the referees.  “Put your glasses on!”  “Are you blind?”  There were numerous outcries about supposed facemasks, blocking in the back, passes that were really caught and not dropped.   Those plays happened on the opposite side of the field from the side that the Hermann fans were sitting on, but of course, the very vocal fans saw it all clearly and were convinced that  the refs were blind!  One gentleman, in particular, kept yelling and yelling and yelling his advice.  He’d yell it to the coach, to the refs, and to one player in particular, Cody.  I didn’t know who Cody was.  Maybe the yeller’s son or nephew or stepson or neighbor or godson?   I do know, after telling my husband about the yelled comments during the game, not one of those utterances were heard.  Not by the referees, not by the coaches, and not by the players.  For all you parents out there, sitting in the bleachers watching your kids play football,  your screams and yells aren’t heard!!!  Your yells and screams will not miraculously make a team gel and win the game!  Yell out the chants with the cheerleaders and with the band as they play the school’s fight song, but for those of us sitting in front of you, and for the good of the team you are cheering, stop yelling!  They can’t hear you!!!  Rest your vocal cords, please!

Referees writing in their record notebooks

Referees writing in their record notebooks

Lastly, for those who enjoy bashing the referees at a sporting event, would you be willing to train, take tests, and travel around your state to officiate at sporting events?  Would you be willing to spend money on uniforms and whistles, shoes, hats, and the extra gas for your car?  Would you be willing to walk a mile in a referee’s shoes?  If not, then be glad that their are individuals willing to officiate, willing to work not only high school sporting events but the youth sporting events, too.  Willing to give up time with their families to ensure that a fair as possible sporting event will be held at an area high school or youth sporting field.   If you aren’t willing to be a referee, then keep your criticisms to yourself.  Thank you!

A Townhall Meeting with Senator Claire McCaskill

I spent an hour today, March 18th, at a Townhall Meeting hosted by one of my two U.S. Senators, Senator Claire McCaskill.  The meeting was held in the St. Patrick’s Room at the Havener Center at University of Missouri Science and Technology, or MS&T,  to us locals.  Town Hall Meeting

I had written an email to both of my Senators in 2013 and promptly heard back from Senator McCaskill’s office.  I received  a politely written reply to my concern, but the Senator and I  failed to convince one another of the rightness of each other’s views.   Several weeks ago,  I was a bit surprised to receive a personal invitation via email  to attend this Townhall Meeting, so I decided to attend.  I would estimate that there were 100 people in attendance and we had to check in at a registration table.  Since I had rsvp’d, my name was on a check-off list and I quickly entered the room  and found a seat.  A student to my left had his laptop open so he could take notes during the Senator’s talk…probably writing something for the MS&T Student newspaper, I surmised.  A gentleman in front of me was an Army veteran, served his country for 20 years.  Senior Citizens, college-students, and me among the middle aged attendees, along with the Senator and her staffers, we were the population of this Townhall.   Dem. donkey

Rev. Timothy Lee, pastor at First United Methodist Church, opened the Townhall Meeting with prayer.  It was nice to see no one stomping off in anger or objecting to a prayer being said.  Senator McCaskill then asked us all to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which all in the audience did.  Then, Senator McCaskill warmly greeted us all and said she was glad we could attend.  She asked how many of us in the room probably wouldn’t vote for her and a good number raised their hands.  She smiled and said that she was glad those of us who don’t agree with her politically are still willing to attend her Townhalls, which she has been conducting around the state the past few weeks.     Rep. Elephant

She had two charts on the dais behind her, “Energizing America’s Economic Recovery” was emblazoned across the top of one chart.  “Boosting Job and Business Opportunities” was the title of the other chart.  She began by boosting some good news: Missouri’s unemployment level is the lowest its been since 2008, public sector jobs-aka government jobs-have been cut the most and private sector jobs have risen, the deficit was $1.4 trillion in 2012 and now it’s down to $500 billion, still needs to get a lot lower she said.  She announced that she would begin a question and answer session and that when she did her first Townhall a couple years ago, she was accused of taking “planted” questions in the audience.  To combat that critique, we were given a paper to fill out with our contact info and a space to write a question.  These papers were put into a basket and the Senator chose a gentleman in the front row to hand one of her assistants a question and then the Senator would answer them.

Sixteen questions were pulled from the basket before the Senator’s time was up(this Townhall was only set for one hour.)  One question was confidential and the Senator agreed to meet with that gentleman after the meeting was over to discuss his concern.  Four questions were about the Military: What more can be done to help veterans in finding jobs within their skills set that they learned  while serving? How can Missouri keep veterans in Missouri instead of seeing them leave the state for jobs elsewhere? Corruption at Fort Leonard Wood, was the Senator aware of that? PAL’s (Private Army Lodging) has problems and was the Senator aware of that issue?  Since Fort Leonard Wood, a large Army base, is only half an hour away and employs a lot of folks in the Rolla, MO area, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the questions pertaining to Military interests.  There was a question about the unfairness of educational statistics of other countries(who don’t educate all of their children)in comparing those stats to public education in the U.S.   The Senator agreed that organized labor has done great things in this country and she credited it with the rise of the Middle Class.   Why can’t gas prices be lower?  The Senator and I agreed on this issue, as she is in favor of the Keystone Pipeline and wants it to go forward as it will provide jobs and it would  better for our country to benefit from it and we’ll be more careful about the environmental impacts of it than China would be.  I started to raise my hand and then decided not to.  I was going to ask the good Senator then why oh why can’t she convince the President to approve this project?  We hear how he wants to create jobs and energize the economy and when Canada is continually put on hold over this project, when we have this project that will do what the President “claims” he wants, he does nothing!   On January 31, 2014, the State Department even released the results of their study that said the Pipeline wouldn’t harm greenhouse gases and still, nada is happening!  Here is the link to that article from the Washington Post.   Another question about the EPA and the Senator and I found another topic to agree upon.  She stated that some regulations are necessary but that when she gets wind of ridiculous ones, she is quick to pounce on them and has succeeded in getting them dropped.  Two examples of the ridiculous: stricter regulations on the scaffoldings to be used in home construction which would have added higher costs to the prices of new homes for a specific, expensive scaffold that  the EPA insisted construction businesses had to use, and the EPA wanted to punish farmers for putting too much “dust” back into the air when they ran their farm machinary in the fields or drove their trucks down dirt roads.    She urged anyone to contact her about any EPA regulation that we felt was detrimental to the way a business or livelihood was operating.    Libertaririan symbol

Obamacare came up, of course, and she admitted that she is frustrated by it, that the roll out was done horribly.  One gentleman challenged her as to why she voted for it when 60% if Missourians didn’t support it and many still don’t.  That question got a lot of loud applause.  Senator McCaskill didn’t really answer his question and danced around it with some commentary about how when she first ran for the Senate that the number one item she was asked about was from uninsured farmers, and how could they afford health insurance?  From her commentary, I began to wonder if all the farmers in the state are uninsured and if farmers were all she talked to, because I found myself skeptical that that was the number one issue in the state when she was running  for the Senate for the first time.   A lady asked her why has so much of the ACA(Obamacare) mandates been pushed further back from starting, and why were some industries exempted?  Again, the Senator nimbly danced around those questions and really didn’t answer them.Green Party

In closing out this Townhall Meeting, Senator McCaskill stated that,”Local solutions are better  in solving problems than relying on DC.”  She thanked us all for coming, and as she began to talk one on one with constituents who lined up to approach the dais, I thought back to all I had heard.  Senator McCaskill is a skilled speaker.  She is good at eye contact and talking to her audience in a familial way, not as a stranger, not as one too high up in the stratosphere of the political world to speak to citizens.  She pointed out that in the ranking of the 100 U.S. Senators, from liberal to conservative, she is right in the middle, at #50.  As nice as she was, I still don’t see eye-to-eye with her on many issues and find her comment about local issues better solved by local folks, to ring hollow, as she obviously thinks the government forcing Americans to buy a product is the way to “save” healthcare in America.

St. Louis vs. Rolla

Phelps County, Missouri Courthouse, listed on ...

Phelps County, Missouri Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rolla, Missouri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A montage of St. Louis

English: A montage of St. Louis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After our family made our move in June of 2011 to Rolla, many friends from St. Louis, or “the Lou” as it is sometimes affectionately called, asked us, “How do you like Rolla?”  That became the million dollar question! If any of our kids were asked, they would probably have groaned and began their list of complaints: there’s no mall, no Fritz’s, the zoo is far away, the Muny is far away, Busch Stadium is far away, there’s no Target, no Michael’s, no Penn Station

To be fair to our kids, being born near a large city, growing up in the suburbs of a large city, there are a lot of amenities in that kind of area and that is all they knew.    It is nice to be able to hop in the car, or take a trip on Metrolink, and go  to a baseball game, hockey game,  or see a show coming in from Broadway at the Fabulous Fox Theatre downtown.  I ,too, missed some of the shopping venues the greater St. Louis area offered and have learned to research  online  where the closest Target or Toys R Us store is, and then have had that internal, and sometimes external, debate:”Is it really worth the gas to make that 2 hour drive just to shop at such and such store?  Do I really need that item?  Is there a similar item at a local store? Can I order it online?”  That is probably the biggest thing I have had to get used to.  I am very glad Rolla did get a Kohl’s store and has a very nice JC Penney’s in town.  Now if a Target could be brought in and a Michael’s store and a Penn Station…hint, hint, City Council members and Mayor!!

The question resonated a bit differently for my husband and I, comparing life in a big city area to life in a town of 19,559.   My husband saw the immediate value of  lower property taxes, less traffic snarls, but would probably admit that the slower pace of life in Rolla did take a bit to get used to.  I would agree with his assessments, and also note that the land is different.   It is  hillier here, with  curvy roads especially on rural drives, stonier soils, lots of clear water running in creeks and springs, occasional black bear sightings.   As we are at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains here, and Arkansas is only a 3 to 3 and a half hour drive away, there is a distinctive twang, a bit of a Southern drawl-like sound to my Northwest Ohio born and raised ears that I catch when some Rolla area folks are talking.   I have also noticed that there is a more of a conservative view on life here when compared to St. Louis and it’s surrounding environs.  North St. Louis County, where we moved from, almost all political offices were and are still held by Democrats, and unions have a heavy influence there.  I would say it’s the exact opposite in Phelps County and Rolla.  If the election for the President had been decided in this town, Mr. Romney would be sitting in the Oval Office, and not President Obama.

St. Louis has many colleges and universities in its midst, all vying for students.  In Rolla, one dominates all of the rest, and is a major employer of the town: Missouri University of Science and Technology, or MS&T.  In 1870 the school was begun, under the title of the University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy.     As the school grew in size, expanded it’s degrees, added research and more buildings, it had another name change in 1964 to University of Missouri-Rolla, or UMR.   In January of 2008, the university once again changed it’s name to MS&T, much to the ire of alumni.  My husband works with several alumni and they still refer to their college alma mater as UMR!  Irregardless of the name, it provides an interesting contrast to the rural aspects of Rolla.  Many students are here from other countries and it is fascinating to me when I observe a group of foreign students at a local grocery store or the ubiquitous Wal-Mart, shopping and chatting away in their native tongue.  I wish I could understand their languages when that happens.  What do they think of life in America so far?  The university has a nice theatre, Leach Theatre, and they do a pretty decent job at bringing in outside entertainment groups for not only the students but for the entire community.  Leach also shows free movies and documentaries during the main two semesters on Tuesday evenings, which as a fan of classic movies, that is a nice plus!

Probably the only thing our family does agree on is the library.  Rolla’s library tries very hard to serve the public, but when one compares it to the St. Louis County Library system, it pales in the comparison.  If I could have a magic wand, I would wave more monies to Rolla’s Library so they could be come a mini-STL County branch library!  That would be wonderful to behold!  To be fair, the librarians and employees at Rolla’s library work hard and are very helpful, always ready to answer a question, so in that respect, they aren’t as grumpy as some of the  STL’s County branch librarians and employees  were who we encountered off and on for 20 years.   MS&T has a library open to the public,  but I haven’t explored it yet.  I have visions of it only being full of books on engineering, physics, chemistry, quantum physics, nuclear power, mining, calculus, etc.

Other than finding a house to live in,  our family’s other priority was to find a church to worship at and to grow our faith in.  We had been very active members at First Christian Church in Florissant for 20 years, and saying goodbye to that church and all of our friends there was and has been the hardest part of leaving the St. Louis area behind.  Providentially, a very good friend in Florissant happened to be good friends with the Youth Minister at a church in Rolla, Greentree Christian Church.  Another Florissant friend was also friends with the Children’s Minister at Greentree.  Through those two new to us ministers, they helped tremendously in aiding our teens and our elementary-aged son become acclimated to the church, and in helping them to make some connections with teens and kids at the church.  This connection, we believe, was God-directed and it has been a blessing to us in making the transition from a larger community to a smaller one.

To sum up, life in St. Louis has the plus of lots to do for entertainment, shopping, eating out, all close at hand.  It also has the downsides of traffic(but honestly, have you ever driven in Chicago?  Chicago traffic makes St.  Louis’s look like child’s play!), higher taxes, and higher crime rates.  Life in Rolla is definitely at a slower pace, lower taxes, less traffic, and an interesting mix of people: people from this area of South-Central Missouri, people from other countries and from other parts of the state attending the University,  farmers, Amish(there is a growing Amish community); folks working hard to make a living, to do right for their families, raising their children, worshiping God, proud to be from this area of the United States.  And, I add, whatever you do, don’t pronounce the town’s name “Roll-uh”.  It’s Rall-uh, sort of like Raleigh, but with a Missouri twist.

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