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Coming up with good ideas for gifting grandchildren can be challenging. Our young ones are blessed to already have all they need and almost everything they want.

The parents snag the best ideas at gift time (their prerogative, really, given all the care and feeding they’re responsible for), so the grands sometimes get a little desperate and waste money on useless, unwanted stuff that ends up on a garage sale table.

We’re tired of that scene.

So, we’ve started paying cold cash for birthdays, which grandkids of a certain age appreciate, and providing “concept” gifts at Christmas.

For example, “Movie and a Meal” coupons, delivered in a Christmas card.

Seven-year-old Vada cashed in her coupon a couple of weeks ago for lunch at Chick-Fil-A followed by the new “Aladdin” movie, which I loved, although the reviews I read afterward told me I should have been sorely disappointed. (Personal rule: Never read what critics think BEFORE you go.)

The all-powerful genie’s proffered three wishes came to mind when I read Kevin Carbery’s Page 19 story about the Jefferson College Board of Trustees’ recent decision to set a course for deep-sixing the pool at the college’s Hillsboro campus.

I imagined finding the lamp (maybe within the spooky and now-closed Crystal City Underground cave), rubbing it and wishing…. that instead of in Hillsboro, county leaders had decided in 1963 to place Jefferson College somewhere in the quad cities (Festus, Crystal City, Herculaneum and Pevely), or in Arnold.

Both areas are centers of population, much more than Hillsboro is today or was way back then.

The history of the college, told in a 2013 Leader special section commemorating the facility’s 50th anniversary, relates that Festus was, indeed, on the radar, but lost out. Donated land in Hillsboro helped clinch the deal, as well as Hillsboro’s status as the county seat and its central location for north, south, east and west residents.

But just as true today as it was 56 years ago, the college’s primary campus is a bit of a hike for almost everyone.

So, genie, make it so – give us a do-over on the college’s location. Poof!

In my fantasy reality, the college’s sports teams have legions of fans, because they don’t have to drive more than 10 miles to see games. That’s instead of the sparse turnout Vikings’ competitions typically attract.

The campus is lively after the sun goes down, because conferences and entertainment draw scores of people who live nearby. That’s instead of the curtain that comes down at the Hillsboro campus after day students head for home.

And the pool has hundreds of regular swimmers to sustain it, because the children’s swim lessons, adult classes and exercise opportunities are attractive to people as long as they don’t have to drive a while to get there.

My vision gives me the comfort a human is bound to feel when she thinks she’s just a little smarter than the decision-makers who came before her.

But then my friendly genie raises a point or three.

“Did you consider, my master, the beauty and peace of that 400-acre Hillsboro site, set as it is among rolling green hills, away from traffic and noise? Is there another place to equal it in all of your county’s wide land?”

As a Jefferson College alum who so enjoyed that peaceful setting, this point hits home.

My talkative genie has something else to say.

“Master, oh, master, have you noticed how easy it is to reach Hillsboro now that Old Highway 21, Old Highway A and Old Highway M have been supplanted with new roads? (Previous masters rubbed the lamp to help make this happen.)

“Now, residents from all parts can reach the Hillsboro campus safely and quickly, and if they live in northern reaches, they can use satellite campuses in Arnold and Imperial.”

Another gotcha. The college’s Hillsboro site might actually have been among the motivators for those badly needed road improvements.

Still, genie, you can’t counter my argument about population.

“Oh, master, perhaps you failed to read your own newspaper, which noted on June 13 that Hillsboro has seen 13 percent population growth since the 2010 U.S. Census, bested only by Herculaneum in growth rate. The day could still come when central Jefferson County has a mega-population all of its own. No offense, but humans always think so short-term.”

Genie, you got me. Go ahead. Put it back.


With only one wish left, I’ll use it for the handful of pool proponents, who have spent the last several years trying to convince college leaders to keep the pool alive, despite its overall lack of use and the exorbitant price tag ($500,000) that would be required to maintain it, long-term.

All three of my kids learned to swim at the pool and I hate to see it disappear. All-powerful genie, can’t you keep that pool going?

“So, sorry, my master. I can do almost anything, but that one’s too hard for me.”