Top of the Morning, July 31, 2014
For nearly 15 years at Champaign's Market Place Mall, Mary File made others smile.
Today, it's payback.
The 82-year-old Tolono woman will be honored at the spot she helped make so popular: the carousel. She'd like to be still operating it, but persistent health problems caused her to retire earlier this month.
"Let's face it," she said, "I should have stopped working a few years ago, but I'm a stubborn, old fool."
For her loyal, friendly service, File will be presented a carousel music box. Also, mall officials will rename one of the two benches on the carousel the Mary File Bench.
Your kids probably have sat on it.
"I was like a bartender," she said. "Just not behind the bar, behind the fence. I got to meet so many people and make so many friends."
File and the carousel became a couple in 1999. After her husband's death — the Files ran a downtown Champaign print shop — "I kept praying to God to give me a job that I would enjoy, I saw an ad in The News-Gazette for a carousel operator, and they hired me on the spot."
The mother of four accepted tokens, guided children to their favorite animal and, most of all, made sure they were strapped in.
"I did thousands of belts," she said. "A lot of people think you just stand there and push a button. It's a lot more than that."
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, File ran the show. The pay wasn't great, but the benefits were outstanding.
"Best part? The hugs," she said. "Seeing the children enjoying it ... seeing the parents and grandparents enjoying it. It's all such a blessing."