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"Salem, Illinois:Gateway of Little Egypt" Top 5 Page for this destination Illinois Favorite Tip by deecat

Illinois General: 52 reviews and 39 photos

  Dee Dee & Ronda in Salem in 1944
by deecat

Favorite thing: I was born in Salem, Illinois, and lived there until I was nine years old. My father worked for what was then called The Ohio Oil Company and is now called Marathon Oil Company. We moved because he was transferred.

Our situation was unique...we lived next door to my Mother's parents. My Father's parents died when he was a boy, and my Mother was an only child, so all of us were close to my grandparents. We lived in a small house that my father and grandfather built. It was kind of out in the country and a great place for a child to grow up.
Located 90 minutes from St. Louis, Missouri, via Interstate 64, Salem, Illinois, has a population of about 8,000 with three elementary schools, one high school, and a community college. There is also a town hospital in Salem.
Salem's most famous citizen was William Jennings Bryan (The Silver Tongued Orator).
Salem is also the home of the G.I. Bill of Rights which was written at the American Legion Post, and it assisted veterans of active service in the Armed Forces during World War II..
A local restaurateur at Max Crossett's Cafe created a salad dressing called Max's X-tra Fine Salad Dressing in 1931. It was so good that the Kraft Company bought it for $300.00 and renamed it "Kraft's Miracle Whip"!
Salem is called Gateway of Little Egypt because in 1820 a severe drought hit northern & central Illinois so wagon loads of people came to Southern Illinois to obtain food for themselves and their livestock. This was compared to the Biblical story of Israel going to Egypt to purchase grain; thus, southern Illinois became known as Egypt or Little Egypt, and Salem became the
"Gateway of Little Egypt".
Salem is the County Seat of Marion County so it has the Marion County Court House located on the town Square
I remember vividly visiting the town park that is called Bryan Memorial Park where there are tennis courts and a swimming pool.

Fondest memory: My parents and grandparents used to tell us about the great Oil Boom which started in the 1930's just after the Depression. By 1939, Salem 's oil industries and land owners were part of a business which had the second highest amount of oil production in any one area. (93 million barrels were pumped from Marion County's farmlands and sold for fifty cents a barrel!)
My grandfather talked about the enormous amounts of MUD created by the Oil Rigs being created in the worst of weather. The mud in the fields was four feet deep!

Note: The photograph I have selected is of my sister and I as children. We look like "rag-a-muffins" because we always played outside for hours and hours, and, as you see, got mighty dirty. You can tell from the photo that we certainly had little money but lots of love.

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Sep 26, 2004
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deecat Used To Live Here!


“Yesterday is a cancelled check; tomorrow, a promissory note; today is the only cash you have; spend it wisely. Kay Lyons”

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