Little Egypt, Saluki Golf at Hickory Ridge, Tres Hombres,
Old Load Weekend, the Burning Purse, “Draw Me” Commercial Art Correspondence School and the opposite of a Bucket List
April 30, 2010
Dave is late meeting us at SQWIRES restaurant parking lot at Lafayette Square in St. Louis, probably due to the orchestration of passengers Sammy, Danny, Nicole and of course, Joyce; not to mention his brother Steve and his boy Taylor following in a separate vehicle. Shaughnessy and I are not concerned as the caravan does come together at 8:20 a.m. (only about five minutes behind schedule). We depart on the two-hour drive to Carbondale, Illinois led by Shaughnessy in a Japanese-manufactured minivan followed by Joyce and the girls in Dave’s Chevy Suburban and brother Steve with Taylor in a sport utility with the license plate EARBOB.
Dave explains that the vanity plate is what’s left of Steve’s share of a business he started with his ex-wife. Earbob is a brand of funky fashionable earrings but Shaughnessy and I agree that plate has got to go, since that business is no longer any concern of Steve’s. He’s got enough on his plate as Creative Director at Paradowsky where he’s worked for 20 years. Paradowsky is a leading design firm in St. Louis which until recently had a long tradition of no layoffs. The economy has Steve a little distracted on this Spring Friday morning.
The brothers Cox are both alumni of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU-C). Both of them credit the school with their early training and discipline as graphic designers. Today, Dave is principal and founder of Sandbox Creative. He blazed the trail to Carbondale after considerable angst with his father, a former Navy man who lived through stress of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a young boy, Dave came across a three-ring binder from one of those “Draw Me” Commercial Art Correspondence Schools with assignments completed by his father a long time ago. The binder was living proof that a career in commercial art was something Dad seriously considered himself. But it was the Guidance Counselor at Griffin High School in Springfield, Illinois that suggested the school in the southern part of the state might have the program that could make this dream a reality for Dave.
Professor Yack only had to hint at the idea of two brothers graduating from the rigorous design program after Dave demonstrated the quality of instruction and a hereditary talent, and Dad was on board with the idea of Steve following in Dave’s footsteps at SIU-C.
The drive to the southern portion of the State of Illinois takes you though rural towns and cities like Nashville, Pinckneyville and Murphysboro. Tiny shops and small town squares are evidence of life in the Middle-West in times gone by. The southern tip of Illinois was dubbed Little Egypt for its extremely fertile soil and supposed similarity to the Nile river delta.
Dave is proud to wear the Maroon and White of his alma mater and insists on pointing out landmarks on the campus and surrounding area. The Bookstore (where Dave worked for part of his tuition), the Pullium Hall Clock Tower (the image of which is the basis of the school’s logo), the McAndrews football stadium (soon to be demolished in favor of a newer stadium for the Salukis) and several old haunts from “back in the day.” The campus is 1,133 acres and accommodates more than 20,000 students. Dave and his brother (and Dave’s wife Joyce) are among the 220,000 graduates of this fine institution which was founded in 1869 originally as a teacher’s college.
The school’s mascot is a gentle, friendly, even-tempered and extremely devoted ancient breed of dog. Ancestors of the Saluki were found mummified in tombs of the Pharaohs. The greyhound like animal made perfect sense as a choice for mascot for the school situated in Little Egypt.
Hickory Ridge golf course is ready for the alumni event and our foursome is ready to go…or maybe not. Steve is preoccupied with his iPhone messages and we are starting on a par three hole which we all agree is a less than optimal place to warm up to the round that will require a scramble score of ten under to win. Nevertheless, it was a day in which the impending thunderstorms held off and the weather cooperated for the most part, with the exception of some gusty winds that made approach shots tricky.
“I have an idea that I would recommend to anyone,” offers Steve, “and it’s the simple notion of the opposite of a bucket-list. You remember the movie where Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson have a list of things they want to do before they die ….well I have a Fuck-it list of things I’m never gonna do….like run a Triathlon. I encourage you to start your own list.”
“Someday… the Cox Brothers Auditorium will be located adjacent to the Sandbox Pavilion on campus. You know just off the quad. Surely you guys are gonna bankroll some alumni tower at least, right?”(This is part of my running gag, but you never can tell.)
Shaughnessy is focused and Dave is often competing for the long ball with his brother. All things considered, we did okay. Clearly we needed to sink more putts. We finished five under par.
At Tres Hombres we encountered the girls golf team auction; Dave and Joyce’s best man, Gary (selling raffle tickets); Michelle, the Executive Director of the Alumni Association; a string of former Rugby followers here for “load weekend” and full house of patrons at the bar. It was here that Dave proposed marriage to Joyce with a crafted puzzle, the last piece of which had the ring. She said yes. Now about twenty years later, we are seated at a table with 11 year old Sammy (“She’s taller than Joyce, can you believe it?”), Danny (Danielle) and Nicole.
“After ten beers… I was pretty impressed with Joyce… All 98 pounds of her. It was a blind date not long after the burning purse incident… You see Joyce used to smoke.” Dave is giving Shaughnessy and I all kinds of insight into the early days of Joyce and Dave. (Some of which Joyce would just assume not share with the girls.) They met at SIU-C and are glad to be back. They are happy the Tres Hombres is still doing a brisk business even as they mourn the loss of the Hanger. It feels like home.
Tom and I make good time going back to St. Louis, even if we missed the only directions Dave gave us which was “See this road, it’s Thirteen West….It splits and you need to get back on it when you leave Carbondale… oh look at those people tied together …it must be old load weekend…” (No worries, Tom is expert at accessing Mapquest directions on his iPhone). We drove through a spectacular lightning and thunderstorm that delayed the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati game. The lights were still on at the ballpark as we arrived in St. Louis.
Another big adventure comes to a close. Go Salukis!
Notes: The “burning purse” is a perfect cliffhanger for the end of Season One of the 13 episode hit TV show. And Yacovelli’s Restaurant (near Lenny’s house) in North County is a perfect segue from chapter 12 to chapter 13 where we meet Professor Yack in the fictionalized novel based on Dave, Joyce and the Carbondale experience. In the book, we flash forward to Griffin High School Guidance office and flash forward again to a giant alumni gathering at the Sandbox Pavilion on campus and flash back to Dad working hard to complete the “Draw Me” Commercial Art Correspondence Course….and flash forward to young Dave Cox discovering the finished product of that course in a three ring binder that changed the course of his life.
Graphically, the TV show features that burning purse. The Book will feature the three ring binder and the “Draw Me” ad that started it all.
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Wes Morgan is Principal of Morgan Studio/East, a firm designed to help companies with planning and execution of effective marketing communications. For More Information Contact: Wesley A. Morgan, 2 Glenmaro Lane, Town & Country, MO 63131 (314) 692-7982 Cell (314) 488-9430, e-mail email@example.com Morgan is author of Plan. Design. Execute. which is available at www.morganstudioeast.com and can be downloaded FREE a chapter at a time.