Like everyone else reading this column, I have traveled to St. Louis for more years than I care to count to experience life in the big city. Baseball games, trips to the zoo, you name it, St. Louis is Sikeston's "big city" close enough to reach in a day and far enough away to give you a thrill with the visit. In later life, St. Louis has served as the midway point for trips to the University of Missouri. So in other words, I know Interstate 55 like the back of my hand.
In fact, I can well recall narrowly averting law enforcement during a teen-age party on I-55 near Sikeston long before the roadway was actually opened. But that's another story for another day. The long and the short of it is that I-55 has been a part of our community's life for over 35 years now.
On those countless trips to St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City and other points north, I have found comfort in one small segment of the interstate. It may have passed your attention. And it's the reason for today's column.
On Interstate 55 south of St. Louis - at mile marker 174 to be exact - is an exit. You can veer right and head to points west such as Bonne Terre and Farmington. Or you can stay on the interstate south and follow the overhead sign which proudly directs you to Sikeston. That's right, just about 105 miles north of our city is the first and just about only sign on the interstate that directs you to our community.
But no longer.
On a recent trip returning from St. Louis, I was shocked to see the sign has been changed. It no longer directs you to Sikeston. It now directs you to Cape Girardeau. And so began a search to determine why.
In the most polite manner possible, I got the runaround. I'm told that Cape Girardeau and Sikeston are both listed as "control" cities according to the Federal Highway Administration. And I have learned that sometime in the past two years Sikeston was unceremoniously removed and Cape Girardeau replaced us on the giant green directional sign. A former district engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation - no longer active - apparently made the decision to replace Sikeston with Cape Girardeau. His reasoning, for now at least, will remain a mystery.
I have always viewed that particular directional sign as somehow welcomed and important. It marks for me at least the end of the "city" traffic and gives you a milepost to gauge your return home. I realize that in the great scheme of things the sign itself is marginally important. But in terms of communal pride, it breaks my heart that we've lost one more small piece of recognition that we held for many, many years.