Apr 25, 2018

Cairo Beefcake: the Southern Tip of Illinois

When you tell people you're from Illinois, they immediately say "Oh, Chicago!"  They can't get that you can be nearly 400 miles from Chicago, and still in Illinois.

Cairo is at the southern tip of the state, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, so far away that when I was growing up in Rock Island, it may as well have been on the other side of the world.

I only learned three facts about it in school, in music class, because the teacher had to explain a folksong called "I'm Going to the Shucking of the Corn."

1. It's pronounced Kay-Roh.
2. The wind blows cold there.
3. What shucking is.

There are about 2,300 people, down from its height of 15,000 in 1920, the decline due to the end of the ferry trade, the new interstate that bypassed the town, and ongoing racial tensions.

Like these black teenagers protesting a "white only" public swimming pool in 1962.

It's a rough town, with high rates of poverty, drug abuse,and crime.

A few miles away, across the river in Missouri, the Dalhousie Country Club in Advance has sponsored this young man in the National Junior Golf Tournament.  Quite a class difference.

Trip Advisor lists nothing in particular in Cairo except the public library, an old building with interesting architecture, and "Fat Boy's Bar and Grill."

You can also go down to Defiance Park and look at the confluence, if you want.  It's not very interesting.

But let's look for some beefcake.

There is only one combined junior/senior high school.  There was a second, just for black kids in the days of segregation, but it's gone now.

Cairo Junior/Senior High School doesn't seem to have a swim team. These crying guys are from Cairo, Georgia.

But there are wrestlers.

And football players.

No bodybuilders, no dating men.

When you google "Cairo, Illinois men," the first link is to an article called "Cairo: Death by Racism," detailing the history of lynchings, segregation, White Hat vigilantes, and riots.

The second is a memorial service for a 16-year old shooting victim.

This is getting depressing.  How about a picture of some guys from the real Cairo, in Egypt?


  1. Surprised you didn't mention racism in Illinois with Skokie, a.k.a. That Town Blues Brothers Referenced.

    I learned the pronunciation from the Huck Finn musical. Grandma always loved musicals.

    I should warn you, I know a bisexual Egyptian who says it would be just as depressing to talk about his home town. Guess which country tracks your cell phone for the morality police? Besides China and Iran, I mean.


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