If you spent more than ten minutes in St. Elmo, Illinois, it’d come as no surprise to you that its population is one point shy of one hundred percent Caucasian. While the town’s sign proudly boasts fifteen hundred citizens, they rounded up. It falls short of that by a good sixty or seventy people. There’s an eight-mile stretch of highway on either side of St. Elmo before you hit another town. In between, there is nothing but country roads, corn stalks, and soybean fields.
Appropriately, Main Street runs right through the center of town. The business district is contained in an efficient two-block stretch; one side of the street has the town’s restaurant, the grocery store (formerly an IGA), and an Amoco station. Across the street sits a flower shop, the post office, and what was once a five-and-dime but now has turned into a dollar store. Running parallel to Main Street is Walnut Street, the place where you’ll most likely find your church, whether it the Baptist, Methodist, or the First Church Of God. There are no St. Anythings, and there’s certainly not a Beth Something.
The water tower is the proudest, and by fours times as much, the tallest structure in the whole town. It sits off the interstate, reminding speeding cars that the town of St. Elmo is not going to be ignored, or forgotten. It’s a new tower, white and shaped like one of those plastic containers that come from the kind of gumball machines that have one-size-fits-all diamond rings in them, or stickers for your Sting Ray. The old one was torn down about a decade ago. Many of the town folk spell out S-A-I-N-T Elmo but there it is, abbreviated, right there on the water tower. It’s hard to argue with something that tall.