RI landmark also functions as a calendar

Posted Online: July 01, 2014, 9:21 pm
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John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com
ROCK ISLAND — The coolest landmark in the Quads is at the corner of 18th Avenue and 17th Street, on the eastern tip of Rock Island's Longview Park.

The flowered date box — and its eye-popping splendor — beats any calendar or phone.

Marc DeMarlie, chief horticulturist for the city of Rock Island, said the display — with a RI Parks logo, date-and-month boxes and flowers outlining the display — came to life in 1969.

DeMarlie, who oversees the alternanthera/Joseph's coat in the city's No. 1 greenhouse, said the display comes to life the Monday after Mother's Day and remains as long as the temperature stays consistently above 40 degrees.

"We have it up and going into October some years,'' DeMarlie said. "Last year was an example where the weather stayed good through about half of October and it stayed up. It's unique and something we take pride in.''

The large-lettered date boxes are 2 1/2 -by-3 feet. The smaller boxes used for numbers are 2-by-2 1/2 feet. DeMarlie said trimmings from each flower are planted and used to keep fresh boxes filled and for growing the following year's display.

"The goal is to use what we have and make that work,'' he said. "We adjust boxes for dates and letters and we use what we can after we trim to refill the boxes.''

The display is a source of pride for the city. People stop for photos for things such as birthdays, weddings, proms and anniversaries. Out-of-town guests often stop to take photos, especially Rock Island natives making a trek home.

"If you are from here, you know about it, and if you are new to the area, it is something you make a point to see,'' DeMarlie said. "It's neat to hear from people who stop. It's also neat to know the people in town care.

"Every warm April we get calls worrying whether or not we are going to have the display, and we remind them that April is a crazy month and that the Monday after Mother's Day in May will always be the day.''

The task of changing the box's date and day is left to seasonal employees. It's an honor the young summer staffers take to, DeMarlie said.

"They get to change the boxes, trim the area and put up the flag,'' he said. "They take pride in all of their jobs, but I think they like that the best.''

On occasion, the date box will work in advance.

"If there is a Saturday we know no one is here to make it all work, we will change the date late Friday,'' DeMarlie said. "It doesn't happen often, but people notice when it does. It's just another way that you know people look and they care.''

As the world changes, one landmark will remain the same.

"It's a fixture, a great part of the city, and it's staying,'' DeMarlie said. "It will always be part of what we do.''

Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309 757-8388 or Jmarx@qconline.com


Local events heading

  Today is Friday, Sept. 19, the 262nd day of 2014. There are 103 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Charles M. Osborn of this city, a lawyer of prominence, who voted for Lincoln in 1860 is now out strong for McClellan and will take the stump for him.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The George Fleming company had begun its dried fruit packing in a branch plant on 16th Street, Rock Island, employing nearly a hundred workers.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The cornerstone of the new Eagles home was laid. Building committee members were John Kobeman, Fred Ehmke and Frank Wich.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Former Kaiser Wilhelm, in exile, is sad as the Nazis march with communists.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Ninety-two members of the acappella choir at Davenport's West High School today accepted an invitation to perform at the New York World's Fair on June 13, 1965.
1989 -- 25 years ago: A Rock Island woman is one of 50 winners of $10,000 in cash in the Illinois State Lottery's "Celebration "89" instant ticket game. Dawn Loeffler was the third winner to be chosen through daily drawings that began Aug. 28 and will run 50 consecutive days.

(More History)