Monday, August 28, 2017
Beyond the Blue Room
I finally had a chance recently to go down to Springfield and check out the newly restored Union Station (above in 1926) which opened to the public earlier this year for the first time since 1974. I remember going to the old station with my maternal grandmother as a small child, with my main memories being the iconic clock and the large wooden benches. Here's a picture of what they looked like:
I'm referring to them in the past tense, because they are not part of the newly renovated station as a result of BEING STOLEN. The thieves were never caught, even though it is impossible to believe that the theft was anything other than an inside job. Although authorities insisted the theft was discovered in 2012, and was reported to the police, no police report could be found and the public was not informed of the theft until 2016. Even more intriguing, this picture from the Springfield Republican dated July 2014, two years after the theft was alleged to have occurred, shows there were numerous benches very much still in the station.
You mean to tell me that the security personnel on site saw nothing, even though moving 40 huge benches must have involved several trucks? That it was impossible for local law enforcement to identify suspects by determining who had authorized access? That there was no ability to trace the sale of that quantity of unusual antiques suddenly flooding the market? Whoever stole those benches had to be someone with the political pull to make the site security look the other way and then get the police to back-off on the investigation. In other words, someone at the highest levels of government.
That isn't the only sordid tale of evil predating the grand opening. The Diary of J. Wesley Miller has passages about "how years ago certain cops used to grab minorities off the street as if to arrest them and then take them to a dimly lighted room in Union Station called "The Blue Room" where they would be beaten and robbed by the police." Could it be true that the abandoned station had at one point become a police torture chamber? If so, it must have been terrifying to be taken through the abandoned structure to that room where no matter how loudly you cried out, no one could hear your screams. Looking at this picture taken inside before the renovation, one can't help but wonder which portal led to the Blue Room.
But that was then, and this is now.
I've gotta admit, the joint looks pretty good, even with cheap seats standing in for the majestic stolen benches.
In an attempt to partially compensate for the benches, an honest attempt was made to recover and display the surviving memorabilia from the station's glory days.
Indeed the old girl is looking good....
....and hopefully beginning a new chapter, one that won't be held back by thieving politicians and one that can go beyond the legacy of the Blue Room.