1860 photo taken 4 days after Mr.
Lincoln visited Lincoln, Illinois, for the last time. Info at 3 below.
His town does too.
Link to Lincoln:
Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership
Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of Lincoln, IL
Abraham Lincoln and the Historic Postville
including a William Maxwell connection to the Postville Courthouse
About Henry Ford and the Postville Courthouse,
the Story of the Postville Courthouse Replica,
Tantivy, & the Postville Park
Neighborhood in the
Route 66 Era
The Rise of Abraham Lincoln and His History and
Heritage in His First Namesake Town,
also the founding of Lincoln College, the plot to steal Lincoln's
body, and memories of Lincoln College and the Rustic Tavern-Inn
Introduction to the Social & Economic History of
including poetry by William Childress & commentary by Federal Judge
Bob Goebel & Illinois Appellate Court Judge Jim Knecht
"Social Consciousness in William Maxwell's
Writings Based on Lincoln, Illinois" (an article published in the
Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, winter 2005-06)
Peeking Behind the Wizard's Screen: William
Maxwell's Literary Art as Revealed by a Study of the Black Characters in
Billie Dyer and Other Stories
Introduction to the Railroad & Route 66 Heritage
of Lincoln, Illinois
The Living Railroad Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois:
on Track as a Symbol of the "Usable Past"
Route 66 Overview Map of Lincoln with 42 Sites,
Descriptions, & Photos
The Hensons of Business Route 66
The Wilsons of Business
Route 66, including the Wilson Grocery & Shell
Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial
(former Chautauqua site),
the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites
Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Salt Creek &
the highway bridges, GM&O bridge, Madigan State Park, the old dam (with
photos & Leigh's memoir of "shooting the rapids" over the old dam), &
the Ernie Edwards' Pig-Hip Restaurant Museum in Broadwell
The Historic Logan County Courthouse, Past &
Route 66 Map with 51 Sites in the Business &
Courthouse Square Historic District,
including locations of historical markers
(on the National Register of Historic Places)
Vintage Scenes of the Business & Courthouse Square
The Foley House: A
Monument to Civic Leadership
(on the National Register of
the Route 66 Era
Arts & Entertainment Heritage,
the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club of the
Cars, Trucks & Gas Stations of the Route 66 Era
Churches, including the hometown
churches of Author William Maxwell & Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr
Factories, Past and Present
Food Stores of
the Route 66 Era
Hospitals, Past and Present
Hotels & Restaurants of the Railroad & Route 66
Lincoln Developmental Center
(Lincoln State School & Colony in
the Route 66 era), plus
debunking the myth of
Lincoln, Illinois, choosing the Asylum over the University of Illinois
Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities
Museums & Parks, including the Lincoln College
Museum and its Abraham Lincoln Collection, plus the Heritage-in-Flight
News Media in the Route 66 Era
The Odd Fellows' Children's Home
Memories of the 1900 Lincoln Community High School,
including Fred Blanford's dramatic account of the lost marble
fountain of youth
A Tribute to the Historians and Advocates of
Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era
The Historic 1953 Centennial Celebration of
The Festive 2003 Sesqui-centennial Celebration of
Lincoln, Illinois, including photos of LCHS Class of 1960
dignitaries & the Blanfords
Why Did the State Police Raid Lincoln, Illinois,
on October 11, 1950?
The Gambling Raids in Lincoln and Logan County,
During the Late Route 66 Era (1950-1960)
in this section tell about Leigh Henson's Lincoln years, moving away,
revisits, and career:
About Lincoln, Illinois;
This Web Site; & Me
A Tribute to Lincolnite Edward Darold
Henson: World War II U.S. Army Veteran of the Battles for Normandy and
the Hedgerows; Brittany and Brest; and the Ardennes (Battle of the
For Remembrance, Understanding, & Fun: Lincoln
Community High School Mid-20th-Century Alums' Internet Community
(a Web site and
email exchange devoted to collaborative memoir and the sharing of photos
related to Lincoln, Illinois)
Leigh Henson's Pilgrimage to Lincoln, Illinois, on
July 12, 2001
Review of Dr. Burkhardt's William Maxwell Biography
Leigh Henson's Review of Ernie Edwards' biography,
Pig-Hips on Route 66, by William Kaszynski
Leigh Henson's Review of Jan Schumacher's
Glimpses of Lincoln, Illinois
Teach Local Authors: Considering the Literature of
Web Site About
Leigh Henson's Professional Life
in this section are about the writing, memorabilia, and Web sites of
A Tribute to Bill and Phyllis Stigall:
Exemplary Faculty of Lincoln College at Mid-Twentieth Century
A Tribute to the Krotzes of Lincoln, Illinois
A Tribute to Robert Wilson (LCHS '46): Author of
Young in Illinois, Movies Editor of December Magazine,
Friend and Colleague of December Press Publisher Curt Johnson, and
Correspondent with William Maxwell
Brad Dye (LCHS '60): His Lincoln, Illinois, Web
including photos of many churches
Dave Armbrust's Memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois
Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, including their
connections to the William Maxwell family and three generations of
family fun at Lincoln Lakes
Jerry Gibson (LCHS '60): Lincoln, Illinois,
Memoirs & Other Stories
Dave Johnson (LCHS '56): His Web Site for the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1956
Sportswriter David Kindred: Memoir of His
Grandmother Lena & Her West Side Tavern on Sangamon Street in the Route
Judge Jim Knecht
(LCHS '62): Memoir and Short Story, "Other People's Money," Set in
Hickey's Billiards on Chicago Street in the Route 66 Era
William A. "Bill" Krueger (LCHS '52): Information
for His Books About Murders in Lincoln
Norm Schroeder (LCHS '60): Short Stories
Stan Stringer Writes About His Family, Mark
Holland, and Lincoln, Illinois
Thomas Walsh: Anecdotes Relating to This Legendary
Attorney from Lincoln by Attorney Fred Blanford & Judge Jim Knecht
Leon Zeter (LCHS '53): His Web Site for the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1953,
including announcements of LCHS class reunions
(Post yours there.)
Highway Sign of
The Route 66
Association of Illinois
State Historical Society
Internet Explorer is the
only browser that shows this page the way it was designed. Your
computer's settings may alter the display.
2004: Awarded "Best Web Site of the Year" by the Illinois State Historical
achievement: serves as a model for the profession and reaches a greater
Lights of the Lincoln Theater, est. 1923, Lincoln, Illinois
About Lincoln, Illinois;
This Web Site; and Me
dream about Lincoln[,] it is always the way it was in my childhood. Or
rather, I dream that it is that way -- for the geography has been tampered
with and is half real, half a rearrangement of my sleeping mind."
William Maxwell, So Long, See You Tomorrow
(1980), p. 130. This nonfiction novel received the American Book Award and the Howells Medal of the
American Academy of Arts and Letters
will hunt you down until you cease to haunt my eyes with hunger. I heard
your foot-falls in the desert, I saw your shadow in old buried places, I
heard your laughter running down a million streets, but I did not find you
there. . . . But in the city of myself, upon the continent of my soul, I
shall find the forgotten language, the lost world, a door where I may enter,
and music strange as any ever sounded. . . ." --Thomas Wolfe, Look
On this page I first tell the
story of how I came to create
Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other
Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois. I also portray the years I
lived in Lincoln.
1: Postville Courthouse
Historic Site: at the Center of the World of the Darold Henson Family (Father Darold, Mother Jane, Son Leigh, & Daughter
on the West Side of Lincoln, Illinois, in the Late Route 66 Era (1942-1964)
(Photo adapted from Gleason, Lincoln: A Pictorial History,
opposite title page.
The photo is undated, but most likely is from the early 1960s.)
A Story of Running Hot and Cold
on a Hometown
First, the Warm Up
When I was about 8 or 9,
I was with one of my three sets of aunts and uncles in Lincoln when they
were taking family members for a ride in a new (used) car they had just
bought (this was a custom in those days). Although it was night, I
could tell that I was in an unfamiliar part of town. We passed an
intersection with a street that had a divided pavement. In the median
were streetlights on lampposts, and their light shining on tall, thick
bushes made mysterious shadows. In later years I figured out we had
driven on Union Street past Lincoln Avenue in one of Lincoln's proud
traditional neighborhoods. At the time I first saw Lincoln Avenue, I remember thinking how
wonderful Lincoln was to be large enough to have beautiful places I had not seen, and
I wondered what other places I might discover.
While growing up in
Lincoln, I continually found new and interesting places and people
associated with home, family, and school. From childhood through
adolescence, my perception was that life promised an ever-unfolding process
of new discoveries and experiences. My world continually expanded.
My bicycle took me first around the block, then around the neighborhood, and
then into new neighborhoods, including the area near the Logan County
Fairgrounds (some called it Podunk). There, I was sometimes chased by
packs of dogs and was once bitten on the ankle, but did not tell Mom and Dad
because I was afraid they would curtail my exploration.
My parents built their
family home at the corner of Seventh and Monroe in 1948. School life took me from kindergarten at
Central School in 1948 (when my parents rented half of a house -- three rooms
-- on Third Street) to
Jefferson School for first grade through sixth. I went back to Central for junior
high (1954-56), then to the Lincoln High on Broadway (for two years: 1956-58) and to the "new" LCHS on Primm Road (for
two years: 1958-60). I attended Lincoln College my freshman
year (1960-61), and long before then I thought I had Lincoln all figured
out: I knew its geographical layout and boundaries, and I was
convinced I also knew its people.
Then, the Cooling Off
I had some of the typical
adolescent rebelliousness and began to develop a critical attitude toward Lincoln that fortunately lasted only a few years.
From about the age of 18 to 25, I thought I knew what made Lincoln tick.
I understood that the highest social status was bestowed upon those who had the
most money. Ideally that money was earned by people who fulfilled the
American Dream in its most noble form -- by people who were smart enough to
have professions or to have
good ideas for products and services needed by society (Yankee ingenuity)
and who had the work ethic and business intelligence to take advantage of
the opportunity (freedom) this county gives people to make their good ideas
pay off big. Ideally, all of this was done by people who lived
according to Christian values.
A few people were rich
because of inherited wealth, and in Lincoln, Logan County, and all of
central Illinois that status usually meant they had inherited or could buy rich farmland. These few also enjoyed high social status.
Ideally, they lived by Christian ethics, including a willingness to share
some of their good fortune through philanthropy, especially at the local
level -- or at least be civic minded.
Of course, most people
could not become rich, and so respectable
social status was granted to those who earned money in more modest degrees,
including those who worked at hourly wages, who did not squander their
income, and who lived virtuous lives.
Like many adolescents, I began
to see discrepancies in my world between the ideal and the real. I
knew that sometimes people who lived according to the code of the American
Dream could suffer misfortune due to no fault of their own. Too many good
people simply have bad luck.
Another kind of
discrepancy that troubled me was the gap between the image that people
projected and the truth of their lives. I began to see that some
people were not as virtuous or prosperous as they appeared and pretended to
be. I became troubled because I sensed a conflict in this society: one voice said to
be honest (reject hypocrisy), but another said it's all right to project
affected me in two ways. 1. I rebelled
against the part of the American Dream that measures prestige according to
material success or the appearance of it. In Lincoln, Illinois, the
American Dream has always taken on special importance because of the town's
association with a man who is internationally regarded as a symbol of
American ideals: the need for hard work and honesty.
During adolescence and early adulthood, I was contemptuous of pretense
in others but blind to my own (the capacity for self delusion is endless).
2. I became keenly interested in human nature and society. This
interest in turn led me to the study of literature in college.
At Lincoln College and Illinois
State, I enjoyed the various ways in which writers depict and interpret
human nature, society, and life itself. While I pursued this study for
personal satisfaction, I also had the good sense to
realize I needed to prepare myself to be "a productive member of society"
and earn a living, so I also studied to become a teacher of my favorite subject.
I knew that life requires a degree of material success (man does not live by
At the time I began my
teaching career in the fall of 1964, I still held conflicting views about the
culture of Midwestern life. Besides the overemphasis on
materialism, I found fault with the social inequities associated with
prejudice and discrimination. Yet, my teaching career required me to
work for the public, including the kinds of people whose materialism and
narrow-mindedness I found undesirable. Fortunately for me, I began my
teaching career in Pekin, Illinois, another central Illinois small city, but
about twice the size of Lincoln (Pekin's population was about 35,000, and
Lincoln's about 18,000. Pekin High was one of the largest high schools
in downstate Illinois).
Curiously, in Pekin I
found more of the things that offended me than I found in Lincoln, but Pekin
also had many citizens who valued education and appreciated teachers. In Pekin, teachers
could enjoy a drink in public, but in Lincoln teachers seen in taverns were
forced to resign. In my early years in Pekin, I learned to
adapt -- to compromise -- (man does not live either by bread or ideas alone),
but one of my young colleagues in teaching was unable to adjust, and his
aversion to middle-class values led to anti-social behavior. As a
result, he was eventually fired.
My adjustment meant that
I kept my job and continued to enjoy opportunities for professional and
personal growth and development. While teaching at Pekin High, I
helped to raise a family; and I earned master's and doctor's degrees and
taught part-time at Illinois Central College.
In my last few years in
Pekin, I became curious about business and industry as a result of my study
of technical and business writing in graduate school -- business and
industry, the very element of
society that I had earlier associated with nothing more than chasing
dollars. I especially wanted to find out if I had learned anything in
graduate school that had practical application, so I sought and found
part-time work as a freelance business writer, editor, and writing
consultant. I pursued this interest part time for nearly seven years,
earning money to help pay for my children's college educations and learning
a lot about how business people think and work. I found some of this
work to be very challenging and intellectually stimulating (clink this link
a summary of my experience in the world of business and industry).
I found some business people who were exemplars of the American Dream, and I
found others who were less noble (every facet of society has its good and
By 1994, I had decided to
retire from my career as a high school English teacher and my part-time
professional writing career and begin a new career teaching technical
communication in higher education. University employment offered more
opportunities for me to do the things I enjoy most -- read, write, and teach.
Throughout my thirty
years at Pekin High, I maintained an interest in the culture and history
of the Midwest. Growing up in a small city, I knew the advantages of
small city life over big city life. Yet I was curious about larger cities
and wanted to introduce my children to them, so we sometimes visited the
zoos, museums, and other attractions of Chicago and St. Louis.
Hometown Fever Spike
Throughout my years at Pekin High, I
often returned to Lincoln to visit family (parents, grandparents, aunt,
uncles, and cousins). During this time I drove around to see what had
changed and what had remained (knowing that what had remained was really not
the same). I always wished I could spend more time to observe and
visit with old acquaintances. Time and experience had broadened by
interests in the culture and history of Lincoln.
I renewed my curiosity of
Lincoln. I began to wonder more about the history of
the city: about the people who had lived there -- where they came from,
their places of work, and the businesses they had owned and operated.
What else could I learn about Abraham Lincoln's connection to his
"namesake" town? About Postville and the Postville Courthouse?
The Chautauqua? The railroads? The factories? Route 66? Lincoln
College? The Logan County Courthouse? The old county jail and a
thousand other places, things, and the people I had known as a kid?
Pursuing the answers to
questions like those had been delayed because the years immediately after I left Pekin were concentrated on getting established in my second career. I
devoted a lot of time and effort to gaining tenure and promotion at
Southwest Missouri State University -- developing and teaching new courses,
researching in my academic field of technical communication, and writing for
academic publication (I offer a professional Web page at
http://english.missouristate.edu/faculty/henson.htm. I also struggled to overcome
non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), a life-threatening form of cancer. In
1999 I gained tenure and promotion at Missouri State University.
Tenure has provided
increased academic freedom and the opportunity to combine personal and
professional interests. In the last couple of years, now with job
security, remission, and remarriage, I have taken advantage of the
opportunity to learn more about Lincoln, Illinois. To help in this activity,
I have acquired many printed sources about the history of Lincoln and Logan
County. I have also established email communication with several
present and former Lincolnites, and I have traveled to Lincoln to visit my
dad and other family, always asking questions and taking photos of places in
Lincoln that interested me.
This Web site is a career
capstone project: here I merge
personal interest in Lincoln, Illinois, and professional interests in
research, history, literature, writing, visual design, photography, graphic
arts, and technical communication.
Another personal and
professional interest of mine is contributing to the central mission of the
university where I teach. Southwest Missouri State University's central
mission is to advance public affairs, which includes public service to
develop good communities. In the spirit of advancing this mission, I
have developed this Web site as a
"distance" public service project. The purposes of this Web
site are (1) to educate viewers about
the rich heritage and promising future of Lincoln, Illinois, and (2) to
foster community development by strengthening civic pride and increasing
heritage tourism. I am also experienced in marketing communication and
will, as health and time allow, promote this Web site and its stated purposes.
Now that this "labor of
love" project has
reached an advanced stage, in some ways I feel I know Lincoln better than
ever. Someone in American literature said that the best way to come to
know a native place is to leave it. Sometimes I have felt that way
about my hometown. Certainly I understand its culture and history now
better than ever.
Regardless of my
new-found understanding of Lincoln, Illinois, I
have not lived there since 1961, so I really have a lot more to learn about
contemporary Lincoln. I sense the loss of factories and other sources
of employment has brought difficult economic challenges. Yet, I sense that Lincoln continues to offer many of the
advantages it has always enjoyed -- central location, good transportation,
plentiful natural resources, and many capable and decent people.
The bottom line of my
take on Lincoln, Illinois, is that it is a most remarkable place, unlike any
other. Throughout much of its history, Lincoln, Illinois, has had
enough resources -- natural, human, and technological resources -- to stand as
its own city state. It had the agricultural operations to feed itself;
an effective infrastructure for transportation; its own providers of
utilities; factories that made everything from china to clothes to cars to
cigars to ice; producers of all kinds of food and beverages; schools and
colleges; people and organizations devoted to the professions and arts; and lakes, streams, and parks and other facilities for recreation.
The resources that
have given Lincoln its measure of self sufficiency also bless it with the
potential for growth and development -- "The Past Is But
the Prelude." I hope this Web site captures some of this distinction.
in Lincoln, Illinois
2: Author's Certificate of Lincolnite Status
Earliest Years: Darold Henson Family Living at His Mother's Home at 548 Fifth Street (Business Route 66)
I have portrayed life at
the Ruth Henson home at
9. The Hensons of Business
Life on Third Street Near Maple
Beginning soon after my father had been wounded in WW II at the Battle of
the Bulge and was discharged from the Army, my parents rented half of a
house on Third Street. The landlady, Mrs. Miller, lived in the other
side of the house. Each side of the house had its own front and rear
entrances. The house was essentially a duplex, but I don't think
people used that term in those days. Across the street at the corner
of Third and Maple Streets lived the Nugents, who published the Lincoln
Evening Courier. While we lived on Third Street, my sister, Linda,
was born at Evangelical
Deaconess Hospital. In the last year we lived on Third Street I attended
kindergarten at Central School. My teacher was Mrs. J.O. Hodgson, and my good friend
was Fred Martin, whose family lived just two doors west on Third Street.
My memory of the Nugents
is mostly limited to their two black Great Danes. As large as horses
and with pointed Satanic-looking ears, they romped and bounded menacingly in
the yard behind the stone fence, which seemed too low to contain them.
They scared me, and I was uncomfortable playing in the front yard when they
were outside. I spent a lot of time in the backyard; but the
landlady and closest neighbor, Mrs. Miller, also
had a dog, which she tied to the close line. I don't remember liking
that dog, either, and stayed out of its territory. Maybe I just resented having to share the yard.
I recall one time playing
with Fred in the shed at the back by the alley. Backyard sheds in
those days often held corncobs used to help start fires in stoves. From the
shed's window, we threw countless corncobs at the dog and covered the
backyard. Later, our parents compelled us to
pick up all the cobs and return them to the shed.
I did not entirely
avoid the front yard because I remember a prank I played on Fred from that
location. Well, it did not begin as a prank, but it became one.
I had a red plastic whistle shaped like a cardinal.
3: Leigh in Front Yard on
Third Street in Approximately 1946
house cannot be seen here, but it was right across the street to the right
on the corner. The background shows the casket factory, its smoke
stack, and water tower. The water tower of the Armour Company appears above
the back of the house at the right. Cousin Jerry Gibson says there was
a fire at the former casket company building when his dad, Ted Gibson,
was on the city Fire Department in the 1940s. Ted was ordered to climb the water
tower in order to aim the fire hose stream on top of the flames. The
water tower collapsed, and Ted
was moderately burned as a result. Soon after this incident, Ted
resigned his position.
The whistle was hollow
and had a hole at the top so water could be poured in. The whistle
worked when I blew into the hollow tail, and the air passed into the
chamber, over the water, producing a sound. By blowing with quick,
short breaths, I could simulate the red bird's call fairly well.
one day, I was in my font yard playing with the whistle. I noticed
Fred and his dad came out of their house into the front yard and were
looking up into the trees there. They were trying to see the red song
bird that had apparently honored them by performing a concert in their yard.
They did not see me
because trees in the neighbor's yard blocked their view. Once I
realized the situation, I crept behind a tree and continued to blow the
whistle while they walked around their yard craning their necks. After
a while, I stopped because I was afraid they would catch me. Many
years later in high school I told Fred the story, so that sin is no longer
on my conscience.
4: Redbird Water Whistle
Above is a
version of this toy that I found in Dick's Old-Time Five and Dime in downtown Branson, Missouri, one of the places I visit for nostalgic
My work experience with
the Courier was limited to substituting for paper boy John Poloney
when he was forced to go on family vacations. His route, on Sixth
Street, seemed like a lot of responsibility at the time. I
practiced folding papers and accompanied John a whole week before he left
so I could learn the route and practice throwing. That was not a paid internship.
Later, during the real thing, I had to wait anxiously around at home, not free to play into the night,
hoping no frazzled customers would call. If someone
failed to get the paper or did not get it by a certain time, it was a minor crisis;
and collecting required more management skill than this lazy teenager wanted
to learn. I preferred the fun anticipation of getting the paper from
the my own front steps, skimming it, and reading the comics.
Good thing I did not ride
my bike to the Courier office and risk having it run over the way
William Maxwell's Blue Racer was mangled. A disaster like that just
might have pushed me over the edge.
Life at 912 Seventh Street
In 1948 my parents built their home on the northeast corner of Seventh and
Monroe Streets, just a little more than
one block north of the Postville Courthouse Historic Site. Every
day I lived there, I looked out the front window and saw the Postville
Courthouse block and the Courthouse replica after it was built in 1953.
5: Darold Henson Home at
Seventh and Monroe Streets
The Darold Henson home was built by Walter Faster. It is typical of post-WW II
construction and representative of homes of families with modest means.
My mother's sister, Mariann (Wilson) Wood, and her husband, Loren, built a nearly
identical home next door (at right in photo). The building lots were
gifts from the sisters' parents, the H.F. Wilsons, whose lives are described
10. The Wilsons of Business
Including the Wilson Grocery & Shell Station.
had a furnace that burned large chunks of coal stored in the basement coal
bin. After a few years, a stoker furnace with hopper replaced the original. The stoker
furnace burned smaller pieces of coal. Inside the hopper at its bottom
was an auger that moved coal into the furnace. The auger was turned by
an electric motor periodically activated by a thermostat.
As the coal
burned, large chunks of ash, called clinkers, formed and were removed with
an arm which had a tri-prong claw at one end controlled by a lever at the
other end. The hot clinkers, glowing orange white and emitting
noxious, sulfuric fumes, were placed in a five-gallon metal bucket and
immediately dumped outside near the garbage can to prevent the ghastly fumes
from creeping upstairs and choking us.
Some time in
my later high school years, the coal furnace was replaced by a gas furnace.
Then, I cleaned out the coal bin, painted its walls white, and occasionally
used this area for a study. My desk was a small drafting table that
Dad salvaged from the trash pile of the 1900 LCHS building.
The house had no air
conditioning so we tried to keep cool with window and floor fans, homemade
ice cream, and frequent evening trips to the Dairy Queen (sometimes in PJs).
Snapshots of Growing up in
Having returned from WW II, my father was working at Lincoln
Community High School (see separate Web page for
Henson's WW II Army service). Without paper work to drag home, he had
evenings free for recreation. In the late 1940's, his two main
forms of recreation were fishing and playing softball on the Lehn and Fink
team. He is pictured below with several others with whom he played
baseball as a youngster and softball as an adult, including his baseball
mentor, Joe Sapp. It's the original photo in the source where I found
it that is of poor quality.
6: Photo from Paul
Beaver's History of Logan County 1982, p. 146.
The photo above left shows Christmas at the Hensons' new
home in 1949. The photo above right is from a few years later on. For many years in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the
Christmas tree was obtained from Jane's parents' Wilson Grocery on Fifth
The backyard was the main playground. At left
Linda and Leigh pose on the back porch during summer fun. The photo at
the right shows the erection of the basketball hoop and backboard that was
for many years located at the center of the backyard by the alley.
This hoop had been used by Uncle Gib Wilson in the 1930s and was mounted on
the garage behind the Wilson Grocery. The photo shows two of the many
dogs that roamed freely in the neighborhood. Left to right are Warnie
Davis (with bow and arrows); Leigh; unidentified kid but perhaps Warnie's
younger brother, David; Darold Henson; Loren Wood (with teamster buttons on
hat); his son, Dean; and Linda Henson. The backyard basketball court
was often used by the Kirks, Newtons, and Van Bibbers.
Speaking of the Van Bibbers -- my sister reminds me of the time that Lester and
Larry returned from the back lakes with a large, black water snake.
They convinced me it was harmless and proved it by wrapping the snake around
The scene is
the backyard of Uncle Loren and Aunt Mariann Wood, whose nearly identical
house was next door. At left is Dean Wood; Linda is helping young
Cousin Shirley (b. 1953) enjoy her kiddie swing. At the back is the white picket
fence that Loren erected to enclose the entire back yard. During a
couple of summers, the Woods hired me to paint this fence. I think I
earned 25 cents per hour. Painting the narrow slats was a most
These photos were taken on the front and back porch
steps in 1957, when I was a high school freshman. I am unsure of the
occasion for the suit and dress, but probably Sunday school and church.
That could account for the sour faces.
The photo at right shows
a frequent and delightful summer ritual: making homemade ice cream the
old-fashioned way -- turning the crank by hand. Making ice cream was a
special treat. My mother used an elaborate recipe of milk, eggs, etc.,
that required first cooking the mixture. Neighborhood playmate Dale Wheeler
helps me by packing the ice. We took turns at the crank, but I was
capable of turning the crank throughout the process. During the final
phase, the crank became hard to turn, and my arms were tired. The
blond kid behind me is unidentified, but perhaps a member of the Emil Ramlow
family, who lived behind us across the alley. The other guy on the
steps is Jimmy Newton, younger brother of Karl "Fig," Georgia Kay, and
Leonard. The lady at the right is unidentified, but probably either
Grandmother Ruth or Grandmother Blanch.
Jane and Darold on their
25th wedding anniversary, October 14, 1965
Jane in mid 1960s
Henson at one of her proms
in the early 1960s
Darold Henson, Fisherman and Courier Man of the Month
Darold, About 1950
Above is Dad with largemouth bass -- fishing, his
life-long "passionate cause" -- and Studebaker. Grandmother Ruth Henson had
owned at least two Studebakers and generously shared them with the Darold Henson family.
The Studebaker pictured at the left is perhaps a 1948 or 1949 make.
Even now the wraparound rear window seems sporty.
Darold in 1977
Click to read Darold's "Man
of the Month" story.
In the photo above at right, note the two "lunker" largemouth bass
mounted on the wall. I was with him in the early 1970s when he caught
the one just above his head, and I had it mounted for him as he has never
been interested in collecting trophies.
A successful angler has to be both astute strategist
(know where and when to fish) and adept tactician (know the right techniques
and how to use them). The mounted fish above his head was taken from a
small reservoir of a town in southwestern Illinois. Darold had done his homework in finding a somewhat
remote lake with plentiful fish and scant "fishing pressure."
Because it was springtime, he knew the water temperature was moderate enough
that bass would feed near the surface, so he used a top-water lure.
The "go devil" technique requires a long, 9-foot pole, which is gripped and
braced along the inside of the arm. A lure with a propeller, similar
to the lunker lure below, is tied on a heavy line (24-pound test) extending
about six feet from the end of the pole. This lure is dragged back and
forth on the water's surface near the shore, where fish like to feed before
the hot summer sun forces them into deeper, cooler waters. The larger
bass are very protective of their territory, and this lure churns the water
with a loud gurgle that provokes bass into attacking and devouring the
intruder. This method proves very exciting, as hooked fish explode
from the water, jumping and thrashing to shake loose, then diving to break
the line, and jumping and diving again and again until freed or tired and
netted. Often the larger fish do escape, leaving the fisherman with a
most empty, frustrating feeling of loss and defeat; but desire for another
try soon arises.
Fishing, then, can
be but is not necessarily a mindless puttering where the greatest challenge
is putting a worm on a hook and the fun is dozing in the shade of a willow
tree on Salt Creek; it is a sport that can teach the need for thoughtful,
Darold has only two mounted fish, symbols of
countless trophy-sized, fresh-water game fish (mainly bass, walleye, and
crappie) caught in his legendary fishing career of approximately 80 years.
Prototype Designed/Fabricated by Joe Trinkle of the Rocky Ford Region of
Right at the
end of the school year (in the last week of May, first week of June)
throughout the 1950s, Ruth and the Darold Hensons drove her car on vacation
trips to the North Woods, specifically to Lake Vermilion, forty miles south
of International Falls, Minnesota. Driving the last twenty miles on
gravel roads without seeing towns and gas stations, we thought we were
really in the wilderness. At Lake Vermilion, Dad learned to fish for
walleyes and taught me how.
indication we were in the wilderness were the mosquitoes. At dusk,
when we were on the lake, we could hear their low, menacing drone in the
woods and then see them emerge on the points of the lakes as they hovered
there in hazy black clouds.
we were in the wilderness was that our cabin had an old-time ice box.
The Vermilion Lodge supplied its cabins with ice cut in winter months from
the lake and stored in an old barn. Sawdust was used as insulation to
keep the ice through the summer months. At Lake Vermilion each year we
stayed in the same cabin.
Ruth had written our names on a piece of paper tucked in the rafters of the
front screened-in porch, and for many years we checked to see that the paper
was still there. Our species is always trying to establish some kind
of immortality. The cabin is still there, but the porch is gone.
One year in
the mid 1950s the Loren Woods went to Lake Vermilion with us. Dad
and Loren always enjoyed fishing together. The Woods liked Lake
Vermilion so well that they moved there in 1958. They bought a
farm near Lake Vermilion, and the farmhouse had no indoor toilet, but it did
have a classic "two holer."
There was also a genuine, old-fashioned sauna in the backyard. As
a teenager, I enjoyed using it. I built a fire in the stove, boiled water, and poured it over heated rocks. I liked the challenge
of trying to make it so hot and steamy that I could hardly stand it.
Being there in June, however, I could not have the full experience of
running from the sauna, dripping with sweat, and rolling in the snow, as
Uncle Loren explained the natives liked to do.
Lake Vermilion Fishermen at
Vermilion Lodge (mid 1950s)
Left to right: Loren Wood, Darold Henson, Leigh Henson, and Jim Knott
When Does the Past Stop and
the Present Begin?
Linda, and Darold Henson in his backyard on Seventh Street in 1997
Judy Henson with Leigh Henson's Beloved Children:
Daughter, Kendra, and Son, Brandon Henson,
Judy Henson on Lake Vermilion in Early June of 2002
Seven Pound Walleye Caught at Lake Vermilion in June of 2002,
with the Mouth of Spring Bay in the Background
Vehicles I Drove on Route 66
My first car
is being driven in Postville Park in approximately 1944. Business
Route 66 is in the background. The make and
model from the early 1940s are unknown. In the background from left to
right are my Wilson grandparents' home, their service station, and grocery
store. Directly behind my head is the V. Goodman Trucking Company, and
at the right is the Illico Service Station, now Dick Logan's Auto Care
Center. All businesses were located on Business Route 66.
In 1944, traffic
on Business Route 66 was sparse enough that, under my mother's watchful
eyes, I could drive from Wilsons' Corner across the Mother Road to the
The Studebaker shown
at the right probably dates to 1953. It was the car that my
Grandmother Ruth owned when she taught me how to drive in the mid 1950s when
I was about 13 or 14. She often took me out Fifth Street Road. She
drove a mile or two beyond the intersection of Fifth Street Road (gravel)
and Route 66 and then let me take over,
teaching me how to steer and shift. I am unsure if my mother and
father knew of these illicit driver education tutorials.
On one drive
out Fifth Street Road, a vehicle approached at some distance and crossed
center of the road so that it started coming directly at us. We were both scared.
I had to pull over to the right nearly off the road and stop. I can
still see the grin on the guy's face as he came closer and closer and
finally swerved back into his own lane. Grandmother Ruth said it was
probably someone who knew Darold and was just playing a joke. My
theory is that the guy just wanted to play a joke on driver he could tell
was just a kid straining to see over the steering wheel.
When I was
sixteen, my parents took me to Decatur, where they bought me this
motorbike. I drove it all over town, of course taking girls for rides
and trying to make them hold me tight.
I recall the fun of racing around the twists and turns of the cinder roads
in Old and New Union Cemeteries, with an occasion spill. Having the motorbike did not inspire me to want a motorcycle, and many years
later Dad confided that the idea behind giving me the motorbike was so that
I would not later want a more powerful, dangerous two-wheeler. His
shows me at sixteen standing in front of Grandmother Ruth's 1958 Ford, which
she bought new. This Ford had a just a six-cylinder motor, but it had
spunk. She let me borrow this vehicle for occasional dates.
Our family drove this Ford to Minnesota several years on vacation.
The date was
May 27, 1960, the day I graduated from LCHS (it is mother's purse, not mine,
on Grandmother Ruth's front porch step). My parents' blue Nash is in
the background. It was an early 1950s make. When my mother and I
went to her parents' place, I often drove this car in the driveway for practice
before I had a driver's license while my mother was busy in the grocery
store. Mother knew I was doing this in the
driveway, but I also ventured onto nearby streets without her knowing it. Or
at least I thought she was unaware. I drove this car hard and lucky
for me it did not blow up. I think the unbuttoned coat and hands in
pockets were intended to be a "tough guy" stance.
And I was
ignorant of the indiscretion of the unbuttoned suit coat. Later in the
summer of 1966, as a member of the wedding party of Thom Zimmerman in
Belleville, Illinois, the old priest who presided properly corrected me of
that bad habit during the wedding rehearsal.
Darold appears partially
in the left background. When I was in the market for my first, car he
found this one -- actually owned by the proverbial little old lady who only
drove it to the grocery store and church. With plans to attend
Lincoln College in the fall of 1960 as a "commuter," I bought this 1949 Ford
(flathead V-8, standard transmission) with $300 I earned working for the
Illinois Department of Conservation in the summer of 1960, a job I got
thanks to the kindly political influence of Mr. Joe Sapp. To my father, he
was a good-old boy mentor and fellow baseball fan. For most of my 1960
summer job, I mowed grass and cut weeds at the Springfield game farm (long
since gone), located on the northwest corner of the Illinois State
Fairgrounds (now the site of the new Department of Natural Resources
Headquarters). In other summers at the State Fair, I joined Jeff and
Bob Fults, Tom Culnan, Jim Knecht, and others in selling
lemonade for Jim McInstry, B.S. from SIU-C (and there are some good stories to be told
During the State
Fair in the summer of 1960, I worked in the Conservation Department exhibit,
then housed in the Centennial Building (on the east side of the
Fairgrounds). There, I replaced the fish in the display tanks when
they floated to the surface, belly up. It was a simple, easy job.
The biologists and Department administrators, the latter then the
beneficiaries of a political patronage system, had really cushy
positions, too. These bureaucrats conducted the business of making phone calls to friends
setting up golf dates and sitting around in the self-importance of their
uniforms. I was also important looking as I moved around in sunglasses
with dark frames on which I had painted white pin stripes.
course, my 1949 Ford enabled me to make many trips to various town and
rural extracurricular campuses. At Lincoln College, I took two semesters of
literature with Mrs. Florence Molen, whose teaching fired my interest in
English. In the fall of 1961, I transferred to Illinois State Normal
University to major in English, driving the Ford but using it only on
weekends and ordinarily needing only $1.00 per week for gas. Typically
during the day I walked the mile or so to campus for classes and then
again in the evening to Milner Library.
summer of 1964, after I had signed a contract to teach English at Pekin
Community High School, I bought this low-mileage 1961 Pontiac four-door
hardtop. This vehicle enabled me to report for the new teachers'
orientation in style at the ultra-modern East Campus in early September of
1964. I drove this car until about 1967. The most memorable trip
I remember in this car was the time I drove the PCHS varsity debate team to
Illinois State for a tournament. Two members of the PCHS varsity
debate team were
students of mine at the time, Joy Friedinger and Patricia Steinke.
above shows me washing this car in my parents' backyard on Seventh Street.
The white picket fence in the background borders the yard formerly owned by
my Aunt Mariann and Uncle Loren Wood -- the fence is the one they hired me to
paint when I was a kid. I was attached to this smooth-riding, smooth-running car as
much as any others I ever owned.
One of my
colleagues at Pekin Community High School was the French teacher and
dilettante Joe Croney, a graduate of William Jewell College in
Liberty, Missouri, and former graduate student of Kansas University
(KU). He introduced me to roots music and urban folk music -- Doc Watson and
the Greenbriar Boys, for example; Adobe House chili powder from Kansas City, and sports cars.
He experimented with homemade wine and beer. His strategy for brewing
beer was to convince his friends to store it in their apartments, where it
sometimes exploded without his need to clean up the mess. He
drove an old Austin Healy. I recall Labor Day weekend in about 1965,
when he and I set out for St. Louis in this car, but the fuel pump went out
Springfield, so we spent the weekend in Lincoln.
One of Joe
Croney's good friends at PCHS was our common student, Rob Isenberg. In 2007,
Rob emailed me from TX, and we had some useful, amusing exchanges as a
result, including the following story, which is now hilarious to me, but
it certainly was not at the time it happened. Different time and place,
From: Rob Isenberg [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tue 7/24/2007 8:58 PM
To: Henson, D Leigh
Subject: Some scattered thoughts
really appreciate your prompt answer. I will continue to pursue his cause of
death. It doesn't really matter how he died except that I want to know. It's
a story that needs a final paragraph or two. If I find any answers I will
let you know of them as they unfold.
just spent some more time on your website. Very nice. There is nostalgia
there for me also. We're not so very far apart in some ways. I am sorry to
hear about your health problems, but happy the cancer is in remission. Keep
laughing. Believe it or not laughter really is a powerful medicine. It's
been proven to keep cancers at bay.
at some point there will be a moment when we can reminisce. I would like to
share a story with you right now that you were a part of. I think you'll
remember it when you read it. When I was a Freshman at PCHS, Croney seemed
alone and a bit lost to me. I wanted to become his friend for that reason
and also because he was different than anyone I had known before. One early
evening as I walked home from the library it started sprinkling. It wasn't
the kind of thing that bothered me much at fourteen, but it made for a
decent excuse. I was walking down Broadway ( I think it was Broadway, it's
been so long since I lived there I get confused about street names) towards
14th Street, right in front of the 1st apartment Joe lived in. I ran to the
door and knocked. When he appeared I asked if I could come in and use his
phone to call for a ride. He allowed me inside, but asked that I wait a
moment while he did something before I entered.
stood outside I wondered what he was up to. Then he reappeared and I went in
to use the phone and to use the time to get to know him a bit better. As we
waited for my parents to arrive we made some conversation and he gave me a
book to read. Then as I was talking he handed me a note. The note said that
you were in his closet sitting in the dirty clothes. He put one finger in
front of his lips to signal silence. He let me know that it was not a story
I could share with anyone else. I didn't. In fact to this day I don't think
I've ever told anyone about it. I think you two were having a beer and you
didn't think I should see that.
laughed about that story quite a few times before it was really worn out. We
rapidly became friends after that visit. I found him more interesting than
anyone I had known before. I hate it that he's gone without saying goodby,
but that was his way.
will be in touch when I have more.
for the delay.
do remember closeting myself in Croney's apartment (standing for a long
time, not sitting in dirty laundry). I am far more amused about it now than
I was then.
don't recall that he told me that he told you. I suspect he did not tell
me because I don't remember being worried that rumors would fly, but maybe
background and views of teacher expectations were quite different from his.
My student teaching experience stressed the need for teachers not to have
personal interaction with students. Joe did not have any student teaching
experience before he came to PCHS. In fact, through some weird arrangement,
his first few weeks of teaching were supposed to be counted as his student
teaching experience (the Dept. Head was to be the supervising teacher). Of
course, given his personality, he did not believe in the same relationship
boundaries that I did-- regardless.
was probably the beer that most concerned me, however. In Lincoln, it was
common knowledge that any high school teacher who drank any amount of
alcohol at all was very suspect. I have it on good authority from my dad who
worked at Lincoln Comm. High that if a teacher were seen drinking in public,
that teacher was asked to resign. Dad said the principal had a form
resignation letter in his top drawer. When a teacher was called in after
being spotted drinking in a tavern by some reliable, complaining, local
citizen from the upper middle class, the principal called the teacher in,
pulled out the letter, and demanded the teacher sign it.
I was a senior, some of my pals spotted our Am. government teacher
(and assist. bb coach) coming out of a liquor store with a six pack under
his arm. Someone asked about this in class, and the guy vehemently denied
that he was the one. Nothing came of it, but I'm sure the coach sweated it
out for a while.
never forget Croney's indignation when he bought some beer at an
Italian restaurant on Court St. with a small liquor store up front and
Gordon Pari was clerking and carded Croney. I wish I could remember the name
of that place. It was a popular eatery and not too far east of
the Mineral Springs Motel.
care till a bit later.
the PCHS Class of '68 reunion in Pekin on 6-7-08, Gordon Pari told me the
restaurant was the Pioneer Club].
unreliable mechanics of sports cars and the complications of getting them
repaired, Croney sold me on the idea of owning one. As a result, I disposed of my 1961 Pontiac and bought this
red Triumph (TR-4). With a $200 loan from my parents, I had the motor
overhauled in Bloomington, and after that the car ran fine. The above photo of my TR-4 was also taken in the Hensons' backyard in
Croney was dismissed from Pekin High in the early 1970s, I never saw him
again. He retreated first to the southern coast of
Texas and then to Key West in Florida, where he is seen in the photo below.
I used to get late-night, semi-coherent calls from him, but a few years ago
the calls stopped. Joe Croney passed away just a couple of years ago.
Joe Croney in the 1980s
after school in the fall of 1967, I was driving my TR-4 while leaving the
East Campus of PCHS, and I noticed Patricia Steinke walking down the East
Campus hill. She was not only the most beautiful student I ever knew,
but also the smartest. I offered her a ride home, and she accepted.
After we left campus, we drove through Mineral Springs Park toward her
parents' home near Lake Arlan on West Shore Drive about a mile away from
campus. Pat was a scholar and had several books stacked in her lap.
I delivered her directly to her home that day.
At my nomination in her
senior year, she won the Stella Sherman Stolley award for English studies.
(This award honored Mrs. Stolley, who had been a former PCHS English teacher
and was the mother of Pekinite Richard Stolley, editor in chief of Life
magazine and founding editor of People magazine.) Pat became
one of the first students allowed to graduate from PCHS after seven
semesters. Three years later, she graduated from Southern Illinois
University at Carbondale with a bachelor of science, double major in
journalism and English. She later earned an MBA from Boston University.
Patricia Steinke in 1968
On July 12,
1999, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, she became my bride. Her life
between graduating from SIU and her marriage to me is another story -- her
history is her story.
Leigh Henson in June of 2003
Photo by his wife, Pat Hartman.
Click thumbnail for larger version.
Brief Chronology of Post-Lincoln Years
Student at Illinois State University during spring and fall semesters and the
summer of 1963. Other summers spent at home in Lincoln.
Teacher of English at Pekin Community High School. 1972: daughter Kendra
Lynne Henson born at Pekin Hospital. 1977: son Brandon
Leigh Henson born at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria,
Illinois. During these years, there were frequent visits to family in
Lincoln (at least once or twice a month).
▪ 1969, Master of Science in
English (ISU); 1982 Ph.D in English Studies (ISU).
Founding co-partner of Technical Publication Associates, Inc.
1994--1999: assistant professor of English at
Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri
1998: diagnosis of malignant lymphoma, chemotherapy and radiation
▪ July, 1999:
marriage to Patricia Hartman, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
1999--2005: promotion to associate professor of English at Southwest
Missouri State University
spring: publication of For Remembrance, Understanding, and Fun, a Web site
with mementos about years at Lincoln Community High School
summer: publication of Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, & Other Highlights of
▪ 2005--2006: promotion to Professor of
English at Missouri State University (2005-2006) (SMSU became Missouri State
University on 8-28-05.), and
Professor Emeritus of English
2006--present: teaching technical writing online for Missouri State
University, with continued research and publication
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Also please email me if this Web site helps you decide to visit Lincoln, Illinois:
"The Past Is But the